Biden takes first steps to legalize marijuana

The president announces pardoning thousands of people convicted of drug possession.

Joe Biden announced that he will pardon thousands of people who were convicted of marijuana possession. The initiative will be the first step to legalize this drug in the United States, as the president expressed his intention to initiate a process with governors and the departments of Health and Justice to review the legal classification of the drug.

At this time, marijuana is classified as a Tier 1 drug, which is on the same level as heroin or LSD. According to Department of Justice data, more than 6,500 Americans were convicted of marijuana possession between 1992 and 2021. This number should include several thousands more who were penalized by a special Washington code. However, no one has gone to jail just for carrying this drug.

In a press release, the White House states:

Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has disrupted too many lives and imprisoned people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit. Criminal records for marijuana possession have also imposed unnecessary barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And while whites and blacks and browns use marijuana at similar rates, blacks and browns have been arrested, prosecuted and convicted at disproportionate rates.

This is not, however, a surprise move for Biden. The president already included this measure in his election campaign. The House of Representatives passed a bill to legalize marijuana nationwide in April. It will be difficult for this to pass in the Senate, where the Republican Party has a similar number of representatives.

NBC reported a Gallup poll conducted in November of last year which indicates that 68% of citizens favor legalization. Biden launches this measure in the middle of the midterm election campaign and in the midst of the debate on crime, which is one of the Republican Party's strengths in the run-up to the polls.