Biden announces nation-wide pardon for those convicted for “simple possession” of marijuana

Demonstrator in front of the white house waves a marijuana-themed flag in response to Biden pardoning thousands of people imprisoned for “simple possession” or marijuana. Jose Luis Magana AP

Sophie Echternach | News Editor

October 14, 2022

Beginning as a medicinal substance used for religious practices, marijuana has not only become a novelty in the homes of 52 million Americans but a staple in the United States economy. 

In 1996, California became the first state to legalize weed as research began to investigate the true medicinal properties of the cannabis plant. Since then, 20 out of the 50 states have legalized weed, including Colorado, Maine, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington.

However, during the time before weed was legalized in many of these states, thousands of Americans, especially members of the Black community, were incarcerated for possessing any amount of weed. Black people have endured cruel and unusual punishments even for possessing as much or less than their white neighbors. Yet, on October 6, 2022, President Biden decided to make a change.

Last week, Biden announced an executive order to pardon more than 6,000 incarcerated people who were imprisoned from the time of 1992-2021 for “ simple possession” of marijuana. Most of these people were imprisoned for use of weed in a time when it was illegal in their state. However, due to the rise of legalizing marijuana in the US many of these people have been sitting in jail despite weed now being legalized in their state.

During the War on Drugs starting during President Nixon’s term (1969-1974), many laws were passed with the intention of bringing in the reins on the use of illegal drugs. However, these laws, specifically for weed, were geared towards the intention of incarcerating members of the Black community and resulted in over-policing and acts of brutality.

“Legalizing it [weed] just affected the people who sell it and opened businesses to do that legitimately,” San Clemente High School senior, Zack Vannemman, said. “I don’t think legalizing weed has changed people’s opinions on it though because that happens culturally and generationally.”

Now, Biden is taking steps in restorative justice to free those sitting in jail cells at a time when society is evolving and governments are allowing the use of marijuana. 

Hundreds of pro-cannabis demonstrators march in New York City in response to Biden’s announcement // Forbes

As expected, people across America are voicing their opinions on these progressive steps in allowing weed across the United States. However, considering that 91% of Americans are in favor of legalizing weed nationwide, Biden is receiving more support than backlash.

Senior at SCHS, Lucca McCormick, said “I think weed being legalized and more accepted has been amazing for recreational, and in my opinion most importantly, medicinal use. I think as the stigma starts to fade people will learn that it is very beneficial to muscle recovery and regeneration.”

Not only will Biden’s new order give thousands of people another chance at life, but this new plan also has the potential to change the stigma around recreational drugs and how/when they are used. Regardless of people’s stance on the use of marijuana, this plan is a breakthrough in the decades-long battle of legalizing marijuana and will propel American history in a whole new direction.

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