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Biden pardons 1000’s of individuals convicted of marijuana possession

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday pardoned 1000’s of people convicted of possessing marijuana, saying the present system “is unnecessary” and sending pot stocks soaring on the news.

The pardons apply only to federal offenders convicted of “easy marijuana possession” in addition to those charged within the District of Columbia, but Biden called on governors across the country to follow suit.

“Just as nobody ought to be in a federal prison solely attributable to the possession of marijuana, nobody ought to be in a neighborhood jail or state prison for that reason, either,” Biden said in a press release.

Greater than 6,500 individuals with prior convictions for easy marijuana possession were impacted by the pardons, a White House official said, and 1000’s more through pardons under D.C. law. The pardons is not going to be prolonged to those that weren’t U.S. residents and were illegally within the country on the time of their arrest.

Members of the DC Marijuana Justice community hold a 51 blow-up joint on the National Mall ahead of President Joe Bidens address to a joint session of Congress to call on the administration to take motion on legalization and expungement of criminal records on Wednesday, April 28, 2021.

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Cannabis firms Tilray Brands and Cover Growth each spiked on the news, gaining 30% and 22%, respectively, in afternoon trading. As of Thursday’s close, nonetheless, each stock still traded for lower than $4 per share.

Along with the pardons, Biden announced that he has instructed Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland to start reviewing how marijuana is classed under federal drug laws.

Biden noted that marijuana is currently a Schedule 1 substance under federal drug sentencing guidelines, “similar to heroin and LSD — and more serious than fentanyl,” he said. “It is unnecessary.”

The Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney will take the lead on administering Biden’s proclamation, an agency spokeswoman said.

In the approaching days, the office will implement a proper process to offer pardoned individuals with a certificate of pardon, she added.

The proclamation also formally restored to those individuals all of the political, civil, and other rights that were denied to them as felons.

“There are millions of individuals who were convicted for marijuana possession who could also be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities consequently,” Biden said. “My pardon will remove this burden on them.”

The relatively small number of people that were actually pardoned Thursday obscures the large role that marijuana plays within the American criminal justice system.

Every 12 months, arrests for marijuana possession typically account for between 40% and 50% of all drug arrests nationwide.

Based on research compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union, between 2010 and 2018, there have been 6.1 million arrests in the USA for marijuana possession. In 2018 alone, police made more arrests for marijuana “than for all violent crimes combined.”

The ACLU data also shows that these arrests disproportionately impacted people of color and low-income communities, serving to deepen existing structural inequalities.

“Too many lives have been upended due to our failed approach to marijuana,” Biden said. “It is time that we right these wrongs.”

Beyond Washington, Thursday’s news represents a significant victory for the country’s nascent marijuana industry, which has struggled to achieve access to major financial markets attributable to disparities throughout the patchwork of state laws that govern marijuana possession.

“Today represents motion from the Administration that we’ve got been waiting for — an acknowledgement that cannabis prohibition has failed and that too many lives have been significantly impacted consequently,” said David Culver, vice chairman of presidency relations for Cover Growth.

Biden’s proclamation “has set into motion the actions needed to heal the harms of the past and chart a course for responsible, legal cannabis markets in the longer term,” he said.

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