President Biden rolled out a pardon for Americans convicted of “simple possession” of weed under federal law hoping it sparks a trend.
“No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” the president said Thursday in announcing the sweeping pot pass.
“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana,” he added in a statement. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”
He is also calling on governors to issue similar pardons. It’s now legal in Massachusetts to carry one ounce of cannabis and up to five grams of any concentrate outside of your home — including gummies and other pot products.
You can also grow up to six pot plants in your home, but you must be 21 to play with pot.
Yet, Biden’s midterm year move comes not long after candidate Joe Biden said in 2019 marijuana might be a “gateway drug” leading to more serious abuse.
Still, the cheering began quickly Thursday after his turnaround.
“The President’s action today will help thousands in America secure housing and employment, and reduce other barriers that have prevented formerly incarcerated individuals from successfully re-entering society,” said Boston U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley.
She is also calling on Gov. Charlie Baker and “governors across the country, including Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, to swiftly follow suit.
The Baker administration told the Herald the governor has already taken steps to do what the president is suggesting, including backing criminal justice reform legislation in 2018 that included provisions “allowing for the expungement of marijuana-related offenses that are now decriminalized in Massachusetts.”
Baker also signed a cannabis law this summer that “broadened eligibility for expungement” and “streamlined expungement process.”
Biden’s pardons will not set anyone free but allow 6,500 people to have those convictions stricken from their records, according to the Washington Post.
The president has also ordered a review of why pot is still considered a Schedule I drug — the same level as heroin and LSD. That, experts say, could signal a move toward legalizing cannabis nationwide.
That review will be spearheaded by Xavier Becerra, the secretary of Health and Human Services, and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Biden is also not pardoning non-citizens who were in the U.S. without legal status at the time of their arrest.
At last count, 19 states — including the Bay State — have legalized recreational pot; 39 and the District of Columbia back medical marijuana, that also includes Massachusetts.
The Herald’s Matthew Medsger and the Associated Press contributed.