Biden to Pardon Cannabis Convictions

Liz Filmer
07 Oct 2022

Yesterday U.S. President Joe Biden announced that he would pardon people with federal convictions for simply possessing cannabis. Going further, he announced that he would direct the U.S. Attorney and the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to start reviewing the classification of cannabis at the federal level.

The official White House statement published on October 6 notes that cannabis falls under Schedule I alongside deadly drugs like fentanyl under current federal law. The White House will “review expeditiously” the plant’s current classification.

The move is thought to affect upwards of 6,500 people convicted on federal charges for simple possession of cannabis from 1992 to 2021 and thousands more convictions based in the District of Columbia.

“As I’ve said before, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana. Today, I’m taking steps to end our failed approach. Allow me to lay them out.” -Joe Biden.

Biden then explained his three key points.

  1. Pardoning all prior federal offences of simple cannabis possession 
  2. Calling on state governors to pardon minor cannabis possession offences
  3. Requesting Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to initiate a federal review into the classification of cannabis.

Since 1965, almost 29 million Americans have been arrested for cannabis-related violations. Activities that most voters no longer think should be classed as offences. Nearly 50% of voters now agree that legalising cannabis should be a priority for Congress. This can only happen by descheduling cannabis from the U.S. Controlled Substances Act and regulating it similarly to alcohol.

“Today, President Biden took an important step to end the federal government’s failed and discriminatory prohibition of cannabis. At a time when 99% of Americans live in a state where some form of cannabis use is legal, it is unthinkable that anyone—especially predominantly Black, Latinx, and Indigenous Americans—are imprisoned for simple, non-violent cannabis possession.” -Congressman Blumenauer.

No one should be imprisoned for using or possessing cannabis. This historical instruction will positively impact countless Americans burdened with criminal records and the unjust suffering and outcomes of cannabis prohibition. This is a particularly cleansing moment for Black and brown communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.

 The announcement comes off the back of the Biden administration assigning the first cannabis research and regulation advisor to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Furthermore, it reinforces the fact that it is now just a question of when—not if—cannabis is decriminalised completely.


Liz Filmer