On Thursday afternoon, President Biden announced “a pardon of all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana.” The move will affect more than 6,500 people convicted between 1992 and 2021, as well as thousands more who reside in the District of Columbia, which is under federal legal jurisdiction.
Biden also said his administration will review whether marijuana should continue to be classified as a Schedule I drug like heroin and methamphetamine.
It’s a major shift for Biden, who was the most vocal Democratic voice behind tough drug laws in the 1980s and 1990s. His 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act “created the sentencing disparity for crack and cocaine trafficking,” The Washington Post reported, and he still opposes marijuana legalization. As recently as 2019, Biden said, “Truth of the matter is, there has not been nearly enough evidence acquired as to whether or not it's a gateway drug.”
But Biden’s shift on the issue reflects the changing national view on marijuana.
In 2021, 68% of Americans supported marijuana legalization. Fifty years earlier, just 16% did.
Marijuana is now fully legal in 19 states including California and New York, and legal in certain cases in an additional 20.
The legal marijuana industry will reach $27 billion in sales this year.