Biden Administration Takes Steps Forward on Decriminalizing Marijuana

By Arianna Santiago

On Oct. 6, 2022, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that pardons all simple possession of marijuana on a federal level. It pardons all that were previously convicted on federal charges as well as those in the D.C. area. 

The Biden Administration released a statement  providing a deeper insight into the sentiment behind his decision.

“Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana had upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit,” Biden wrote.

Biden also made a point to identify that since the War on Drugs in the 1970s, many individuals from minority communities had fallen victim to being charged and imprisoned in an unfair manner compared to white counterparts. 

“And while white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates,” said the statement. 

According to a White House official, more than 6,500 individuals were impacted by this executive pardon. 

“I think this is a good first step to reverse the over-policing of drug offenses that came out of the War on Drugs. There are 6,500 citizens who will be pardoned for simple marijuana prevention, helping them to clear their criminal records,” said Criminology and Criminal Justice professor Carly Hilinski-Rosick. “We have been suffering from the negative consequences of the drug war, including mass incarceration, excessive sentences for drug offenses, and disproportionate minority representation for decades, and this will help to begin reversing some of that damage.” 

As of today, marjuana is classified as a Schedule I drug. The U.S Drug Enforcement Administration defines these as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Other drugs on this list include heroin, LSD and ecstasy. 

In his statement, Biden additionally expressed that he would be asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services and Attorney General to begin the process of reviewing the way marijuana is scheduled federally. 

“I believe this order is a step in the right direction due to the fact that numerous states have legalized marijuana either medically or recreationally as well,” said criminology and criminal justice major Cameron Sapone. “Although it can lead to other concerns, I do not think someone should be incarcerated for a drug that is now legalized.” 

As reported by Politico, “Nearly two-thirds of voters indicated that they support issuing pardons to people with nonviolent federal marijuana convictions.” 

They also revealed that Black voters were the most supportive of this decision– at least 74% agreeing with pardoning offenders with marijuana related charges. 

In America, only 19 states have voted to legalize marijuana usage within their states, with Colorado being the first in 2012. In Florida, currently only medicinal marijuana is legalized, which was stated in Amendment Two in 2016.

In Tampa, decriminalization against marijuana has been made which makes possessing a small amount of marijuana–under 20 grams–eligible for a citation rather than jail time and/or being criminally charged. 

In 2020, Hillsborough county commissioners “unanimously” voted to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. 

“Perfect should not be the enemy of good, and this is a good first step. Much more needs to be done to really reverse the impacts of the drug war, but this signals a willingness of the Biden administration to make some of those changes,” said Rosick. 

%d bloggers like this: