Biden pardons thousands convicted of marijuana possession, orders review of federal laws

October 10, 2022

On Thursday, October 6, President Joe Biden pardoned thousands of people convicted of possessing marijuana—saying the current system “makes no sense” and sending weed stocks soaring, reports CNBC.

The pardons apply only to federal offenders convicted of “simple marijuana possession” as well as those charged in the District of Columbia—but Biden called on governors across the country to follow suit.

“Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either,” Biden said in a statement.

More than 6,500 people with prior convictions for simple marijuana possession were impacted by the pardons, a White House official said, and thousands more through pardons under D.C. law. The pardons will not be extended to those who weren’t U.S. citizens and were illegally in the country at the time of their arrest.

Cannabis companies Tilray Brands and Canopy Growth both spiked on the news—gaining 30% and 22%, respectively, in afternoon trading. As of Thursday’s close, however, each stock still traded for less than $4 per share.

In addition to the pardons, Biden announced that he has instructed Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland to begin reviewing how marijuana is classified under federal drug laws.

Biden noted that marijuana is currently a Schedule 1 substance under federal drug sentencing guidelines, “the same as heroin and LSD—and more serious than fentanyl,” he said. “It makes no sense.”

The Justice Department’s Office of the Pardon Attorney will take the lead on administering Biden’s proclamation, an agency spokesperson—noting that, in the coming days, the office will implement a formal process to provide pardoned individuals with a certificate of pardon.

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

“There are thousands of people who were convicted for marijuana possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result,” Biden said. “My pardon will remove this burden on them.”

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

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

Research contact: @CNBC