Following President Joe Biden’s historic statement last week, pardoning thousands of Americans with federal convictions for “simple possession” of cannabis, it is now up to state governors to decide whether they’ll do the same for people with state convictions.
Reuters report that approximately 6,500 people will immediately benefit from Biden’s recent decree – albeit that none remain in federal prison – but advocacy group, the Last Prisoner Project, highlighted that there are still 3,000 people convicted of higher level cannabis crimes in federal prison.
Moreover, it is estimated that there are 30,000 people residing in state prisons for cannabis offences.
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Many state governors have already reacted to President Biden’s announcement, outlining their position on the matter. Those who support the policy have been quick to tweet about initiatives they’ve already enacted – or will soon be putting in place – whilst others, such as the Governors for Idaho and Texas, have vocalised their disagreement with the President’s pardoning plea.
In addition to pardons for cannabis possession, President Biden also called for an examination of the current scheduling of cannabis. As it stands, cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug – the same classification as heroin and cocaine.
Last Friday in Florida, U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Xavier Becerra remarked that the agency would “work as quickly as we can, but at the end of the day science is what is going to take us to a solution”, reported the Florida Phoenix.
Continuing, Becerra said: “The president was very clear — he wants this done as quickly as possible. It’s not new science, but there’s a lot of information to gather because in many states marijuana has been legalized for either medical purposes or recreational purposes.”
Keen not to waste time, Becerra stated that he had already spoken with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner about starting the process to revaluate cannabis.
A YouGov poll revealed that 61% of Americans approved of the decision to pardon people for federal cannabis possession convictions, with another 13% of those polled saying that they weren’t sure.
In another poll looking at whether people would support or oppose their governors pardoning people convicted of marijuana possession in their state, the same percentage of people supported the pardons (61%), with another 14% unsure.
A third poll looking at whether cannabis should remain as a Schedule 1 drug, concluded that only 25% of people believed that is should remain in its current scheduling, deeming it as a drug “with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse”.
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