Biden’s Pardon for Federal Marijuana Possession Will Benefit Latinos

Biden - Latino - Marijuana

Image via AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, file.

By Mivette Vega

October 7, 2022

Bipartisan lawmakers and civil rights groups have called on the president repeatedly to use his executive authority to start righting the wrongs of prohibition, which disproportionately affects people of color.

President Joe Biden took a big step toward decriminalizing marijuana on Thursday by pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” under federal law, which disproportionately impacts people of color.

Biden said in a statement  that “no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.”

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“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs,” the president said.

According to the White House, the pardon could help thousands overcome obstacles to renting a home or finding a job.

“There are thousands of people who have prior Federal convictions for marijuana possession, who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions,” Biden said.

Since Biden took office, bipartisan lawmakers and civil rights groups have called on him repeatedly to use his executive authority to start righting the wrongs of prohibition.

“For far too long, the federal prohibition on cannabis and the War on Drugs has been a war on people, and particularly people of color. President Biden’s action to pardon people convicted of simple marijuana possession under federal law is a huge step forward to correct decades of over-criminalization,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote on Twitter.

Puerto Rican Rep. Nydia Velázquez also praised Biden’s action, citing the impact it will have on communities of color.

“Thank you @POTUS for taking this step in the right direction that will help communities of color who are unfairly targeted for marijuana charges. This step was long overdue—the next step: legalization!” Velázquez wrote on Twitter.

The pardon does not cover convictions for possession of other drugs, or for charges relating to producing or possessing marijuana with an intent to distribute. Biden is also not pardoning non-citizens who were in the US without legal status at the time of their arrest.

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Biden is also directing the secretary of Health and Human Services and the US attorney general to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law. Rescheduling the drug would reduce or potentially eliminate criminal penalties for possession. Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, alongside heroin and LSD, but ahead of fentanyl and methamphetamine.

The president is also calling on governors to issue similar pardons for those convicted of state marijuana offenses, which reflect the vast majority of marijuana possession cases.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


  • Mivette Vega

    Mivette Vega is a seasoned journalist and multimedia reporter whose stories center the Latino community. She is passionate about justice, equality, environmental matters, and animals. She is a Salvadorrican—Salvadorian that grew up in Puerto Rico—that has lived in San Juan, Venice, Italy, and Miami.



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