Biden once again applauded his declaration of marijuana pardons in a recent speech. He’s made it abundantly clear that those serving for cannabis sales-related crimes aren’t going to be released any time soon. He continues to claim that he’s keeping his promise that no one should be incarcerated for using or possessing marijuana. According to Biden, you’re free to use cannabis at your discretion, but you can’t sell it.
The remarks coincide with a protest that will include civil disobedience at the White House on Monday, organized by activists to draw attention to those who have been overlooked by President Biden’s current cannabis clemency initiative. At present, we’re unsure if Biden’s remarks reflect his current views toward cannabis pardons, or if it’s a sign that he’s completely ruling out any possibility of an expansion on the clemency relief any time soon.
If Biden truly has no intention of expanding the current clemency relief, it will be much to the dismay of the many organizations who have banded together to organize the White House protests. In a letter to Biden this month, these organizations—which also included Students for Sensible Drug Policy, DCMJ, Freedom Grow and others—called his actions thus far “a great first step” but complained that they “did nothing to address the thousands of federal cannabis prisoners currently incarcerated.”
Indeed, the clemency only applies to those who broke the law in Washington, D.C., and the federal possession offense, which totals about 6,500 people. In a recent analysis, the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) provided specifics on the characteristics of those granted pardons.
The president’s pardon was denied to several groups, including immigrants and those who have been accused of selling marijuana. According to estimates, 2,800 people are incarcerated in federal facilities for marijuana-related offenses other than simple possession.
The activists expressed their outrage in a letter to Biden, stating, “We would prefer not to have to escalate our protests, however, your administration has thus far refused to release our incarcerated neighbors, friends, and family members and it is, therefore, our moral duty to mobilize sufficient public attention to your lack of action on this urgent injustice that you promised to address,”
They also pointed out that in his 2020 campaign, Biden openly stated that “anyone with a record should be let out of jail,” but he’s yet to make good on that promise.
Although marijuana use is now legal in almost 40 U.S. states, some states and the federal government still prohibit it outright. A majority of Americans support reclassification as the first step toward wider legalization, which would bring about significant changes for businesses and law enforcement, and have an impact on millions of people.
As marijuana legalization spreads, marijuana crime has changed as well. Although marijuana is legal in California, the state-licensed industry is in trouble because, according to estimates, 70% of the products consumers buy comes from the black market. One factor contributing to illegal operators‘ success is the absence of the 35 percent or more in state taxes that customers of legal goods must pay. Legalization has given illegal business people the confidence to conduct open, large-scale operations.
Large-scale illegal farms are nefarious operations. The neighbors are alarmed by their armed workers. They steal power and water, and they pollute. They mistreat helpless workers. Cannabis cultivation eventually stops being a victimless crime. But despite marijuana’s ambiguous legal status, states largely lack the motivation and resources to take action. It makes sense that many cannabis supporters are hesitant to support harsh penalties like imprisonment for any nonviolent offender. Industry leaders are probably correct in believing that cutting taxes on legal products is the quickest way to close them down.
Biden’s decision to pardon federal possession offenders is a welcome acknowledgment for marijuana advocates and those victimized by the federal government’s marijuana prosecutions for decades. However, it only benefits a small portion of those whose lives have been ruined by such enforcement.
The overlapping systems imprison small-time hustlers while businesses across the state line, or even within it, harvest weed on an industrial scale. This is obviously hypocritical. It’s time that Biden acknowledges the hypocrisy of allowing these large corporations to rake in billions in revenue, while your average Joe is locked up for making a couple of dollars.
Biden lags far behind some states that have legalized terms of sealing the records of minor offenders. This is progress, but it has taken far too long, especially if it only continues from this point. We’ve waited long enough for this kind of progress, so Biden needs to step up and widen the scope and free more people from an oppressive past.
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