Originally published in the Detroit Metro Times.
Finally, the Biden administration appears to be moving toward major federal cannabis reform.
In a surprise announcement made on Twitter on Thursday, President Joe Biden announced a series of sweeping cannabis reforms, including pardoning all prior offenses for possession and calling on state governors to do the same.
“As I’ve said before, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said on Twitter. “Today, I’m taking steps to end our failed approach.”
In a series of follow-up tweets, Biden said those steps will include pardoning all prior federal offenses for possession. “There are thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result,” he said. “My pardon will remove this burden.”
As I’ve said before, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.— President Biden (@POTUS) October 6, 2022
Today, I’m taking steps to end our failed approach. Allow me to lay them out.
Biden also called on Department of Health and Human Services secretary Xavier Becerra and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to look into rescheduling cannabis under federal law. Cannabis is currently considered a Schedule 1 drug, which makes it illegal to transport across state lines, limits scientific research, and prevents banks from working with cannabis businesses.
“We classify marijuana at the same level as heroin – and more serious than fentanyl,” Biden said. “It makes no sense.”
Biden also called on limitations on trafficking, marketing, and underage sales of cannabis.
He said the decision was made to remedy the effects of the racist war on drugs.
“Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives – for conduct that is legal in many states,” he said. “That’s before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction. Today, we begin to right these wrongs.”
The announcement, made weeks ahead of the midterm elections, is an about-face for the administration. Earlier this year, the White House signaled that it would not make a cannabis reform announcement before the midterms. And last year, it was revealed that the Biden administration had been purging staff for past cannabis use, in even states where cannabis use is legal.
Last year, a Gallup poll found that 68% of Americans support legalizing cannabis, a record high.