Biden touts cannabis policy changes in State of the Union

The effectiveness and scope of the pardons have been a subject of debate, though.

In a historic move, President Joe Biden highlighted his administration’s efforts toward cannabis reform during his State of the Union address, a first for any sitting U.S. president.

The president pointed to his directive for a cabinet-level review of marijuana’s classification under federal law and spoke of his administration’s efforts to “expunge” thousands of convictions for simple possession.

“Because no one should be jailed for using or possessing marijuana,” he told Congress Thursday night.

The effectiveness and scope of Biden’s pardons have been a subject of debate, though. While the pardons have symbolically forgiven convictions, they did not eliminate criminal records entirely.

Additionally, these pardons have not impacted individuals currently serving sentences in federal prisons for marijuana-related offenses that exceed simple possession.

Biden also in December announced that he would expand the scope of the directive to include people convicted of simple possession (under several statutes, rather than one), attempted possession, and use of marijuana on federal properties, including in Washington D.C.

He said at the time that he also shortened the prison sentences of 11 individuals who were “serving disproportionately long sentence for nonviolent drug offenses.”

Despite so, no individuals are expected to be released from federal prison as a result of that recent action, according to the Associted Press, similar to the outcome of the 2022 pardon announcement. Individuals in the U.S. unlawfully at the time of their offense are also excluded from the relief. But it still helps many looking for jobs or homes to rent.

His actions also only specifically target federal convictions, thereby not affecting those convicted under state laws. However, Biden has urged governors to follow his lead and address state-level marijuana offenses.

The reaction to the his administration’s stance on marijuana has varied among different groups and individuals. Polls show an rise in the president’s favorability following his announcements, yet some advocacy groups contend that the efforts do not sufficiently address the broader, longstanding issues stemming from the war on drugs.

The sentiment also falls in line with his effort to reclassify cannabis’ federal drug status.

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