President Biden is pardoning all people convicted of simple marijuana possession as the first step toward larger marijuana reform, he announced Thursday.
The move applies to thousands of people across the states and in Washington, D.C., The Associated Press reports. During his campaign, Biden pledged to decriminalize the drug, reports CNN.
On Thursday, the president urged state governors to follow his lead, as state convictions for marijuana possession vastly outnumber federal convictions, The New York Times reports. Biden also noted that people of color, namely Black and brown people, are incarcerated for marijuana possession at higher rates than their white counterparts, a statistic advocacy groups have encouraged the president to tackle, the Times continues.
The announcement comes just before the November midterms, where Democrats are hoping to hold their congressional majority. Many Democratic candidates have made marijuana a pressing issue.
Along with the pardons, Biden also announced plans to review marijuana's classification as a Schedule I drug; however, the federal government should keep "important limitations on trafficking, marketing, and underage sales of marijuana," he said.
"This is incredibly long overdue," said Kassandra Frederique of the Drug Policy Alliance. "There is no reason that people should be saddled with a criminal record ... for something that is already legal in 19 states and D.C. and decriminalized in 31 states."