The pardon will apply to all federal offenders convicted of “simple marijuana possession," along with individuals who have been charged in the District of Columbia, Biden said Thursday (October 6).
The president hopes governors across the nation will 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.
According to a White House official, more than 6,500 people previously convicted for simple marijuana possession will be pardoned, per Biden's announcement. The pardons will not, however, impact those who weren't U.S. citizens at the time of their arrest.
“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.”
In conjunction with the pardons, Biden also announced that Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland will begin reviewing how marijuana is classified under federal drug laws.
Marijuana is currently deemed a schedule one substance under federal drug sentencing guidelines, Biden said, “the same as heroin and LSD – and more serious than fentanyl,” noting that the classification “makes no sense.”
“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” he said. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”