A Small Win on the War on Drugs
President Biden Loves Drugs!
Just a prediction of the new battle cry as the opposing side reacts to President Biden’s move to pardon thousands of people convicted of simple possession charges.
Politics aside, it’s about damn time considering recreational marijuana is legal in 20 states (starting in 2012 with Colorado and Washington leading the charge) and where this move will impact thousands of people.
We can now mark 10/6/22 as a significant date much like 12/20/18 when President Trump made Hemp (derived from Cannabis, and NOT marijuana) legal through the Farm Bill Act of 2018. This bill removed Hemp (yes the same hemp you’re buying as seeds to add to your smoothies, yes, the same hemp your taking in the form of CBD for pain relief, yes, the same hemp you’re wearing as jeans, a tee and on and on) from the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) schedule of Controlled Substances. Hemp was once classified a Schedule I drug (LSD, heroin, ectasy, peyote) since 1937 under the Marijuana Tax Act and almost a century later, finally labeled an agricultural commodity. See what a century can do in terms of reform and progress? Sarcasm aside, I digress… back to Biden and Cannabis.
As of 10/6/22, President Biden will clear records of those who were convicted on “federal charges of simple possession” dating back to 1970 when it was a crime to even possess marijuana.
Who does this impact?
As an example, an estimate 6,500 people were convicted of simple possession between 1992 and 2021. This will also impact thousands of people who were convicted under the District of Columbia Drug laws.
However, this will NOT impact people convicted of selling or distributing marijuana. The High School friend you knew selling a dime bag before prom? Well, it’s still on their record.
How does this impact people with previous records?
This will now allow people to get a job, rent or buy a home, apply to school and apply for federal benefits without a criminal record. Hopefully, this will also remove the feeling of being judged, denied or condemned even though 48.2 million people, or about 18% of Americans, used it at least once in 2019 according to the CDC.
If you’re one of 48 million people who have at least tried smoking marijuana or now being offered an edible gummy for a girl’s night out, let this sink in. Just imagine you’ve been enjoying that edible gummy for the past couple of years and the only difference between the you of today and the person who smoked a joint previous to this new edict, is that they got caught.
When you’re now told and being sold on, “trying an edible is like enjoying a glass of wine!” and the person caught prior to 10/6/22 has been living with a criminal record for almost half a century. This same person that was unable to get a job, an apartment or even apply to school and oh, let’s not forget the extreme judgement for smoking the “devil’s lettuce” (an expression I will never forget that peer/friend, Kimberly Dillon uses). This same person who is Black as statistically they are three times as likely to be arrested for possession versus a white person, according to the A.C.L.U. (pulling data from 2010 to 2018).
The significance of this move is a huge step forward to destigmatizing and decriminalizing cannabis. However, we should not minimize or glaze over the injustice that has occurred especially to Black people. People that have served time in jail and have had this damaging scarlet letter not only on their record but where they were condemned by friends, family members, peers and complete strangers.
“Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives — for conduct that is legal in many states,” President Biden said on Twitter on Thursday. “That’s before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction. Today, we begin to right these wrongs.”
In this video, he added: “While white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people are arrested, prosecuted and convicted at disproportionately higher rates." Say that much louder please so that everyone in the back can hear.
Government and state officials and the public may not agree with President Biden considering during his time in Senate, he passed many laws incarcerating the same people he’s now expunging the records of. However, if we can take this move as a positive step towards eliminating social injustices around this plant and seeing some form of regulation for cannabis, then it’s a small win.
The bigger picture here is we can all right our wrongs.
We can follow this step forward instead of fighting it and spend decades not doing anything (cough cough HEMP). This move is only a step, considering there are far more state charges than there are federal charges for minor possession. Kudos to the states (Oregon was the first in 1973 and then Alaska, Maine, Colorado, California, and Ohio in 1975) that have already reduced or eliminated the criminal punishments for simply possessing marijuana. As of 2022, 31 states have decriminalized marijuana for low-level marijuana possession offenses but know those offenses may remain on record. Biden is encouraging all governors to exonerate and pardon these minor offenses at the state level. Could cannabis be the one non-partisan topic to bring this country together especially when you're talking opportunity, innovation, well being and sustainability for ourselves and the planet? Wishful thinking and for those of you reading this, remember: cannabis is a plant for the people, by the people and for ALL.
Biden’s administration also announced that they would review how marijuana is classified and whether it should still be in the company of Schedule I drugs like heroin and LSD (cough cough remember earlier in this article when HEMP was classified the same). For now, let’s take this as a step forward in the right direction and a win for the cannabis community, the industry and for the many people to finally have their record clear.
Let’s work towards better policy and regulating this plant.
We all know that just as there is great in the world, there is evil, and we need to take positive steps forward before the evil sets us back. When I reference evil, I mean companies and individuals profiting off of inferior quality product or marketing to kids and youth which are two absolute and unwavering hell no's. Let’s educate on the recreational and medical benefits and regulate recreational cannabis (marijuana) no differently than alcohol consumption. There is a lot of work to undo, rebrand and action but it’s a step in the right direction and that is something we can ALL agree on. #makecannabisgreatagain