President Biden announced he is pardoning thousands of people with federal marijuana convictions.
Biden, in a statement, said "no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana."
The White House is also considering a change to the scheduling of marijuana under federal law.
Thousands of people with federal convictions for possessing marijuana will receive pardons from President Joe Biden, the White House announced Thursday, a move that will make it easier for many to find employment and housing.
In a statement, Biden - a former proponent of the war on drugs who has been urged by some Democrats to back the legalization of cannabis - said that "no one should be in jail for using or possessing marijuana," arguing that it does not make sense to put people behind bars for a substance "that many states no longer prohibit."
Pardons will be limited to those convicted of possession, not sales or trafficking of cannabis. Biden said he is also encouraging state governors to do the same.
While many states have indeed legalized the use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, at the federal level the plant remains classified as Schedule I drug - alongside heroin - meaning that it is at least officially viewed as having "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse," per the Drug Enforcement Agency.
That could soon change.
In his statement, Biden said that he is asking Attorney General Merrick Garland and Health Secretary Xavier Becerra to begin a review of marijuana's federal scheduling. A change in classification could make it easier for research institutions to study the health impact of cannabis and eliminate concern at the state level that a change in federal administration could lead to renewed raids on medical and recreational marijuana operations.
"Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana," Biden said. "It's time that we right these wrongs."
Criminal justice reform advocates welcomed the announcement from the White House but said it was long overdue given policy changes at the state level.
Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, said that it was especially notable that an old "drug warrior" is the one now saying incarceration is not an appropriate way to address drug possession.
"I think it shows the sea change that's occurred," he told Insider.
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