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Biden pardons federal marijuana offenses, urges states to follow

U.S. President Joe Biden is moving to pardon all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/de88a5b9934aca39752c1a89e9b8d169/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
U.S. President Joe Biden is moving to pardon all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 6 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden announced Thursday pardons for some federal marijuana offenses and a plan to review how the drug is classified under federal law.

He urged states to consider pardons, as well.

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"I am urging all governors to do the same with regard to state offenses," Biden said in a statement from the White House. "Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail of state prison for that reason, either."

Biden's pardons apply to all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession, clearing about 6,500 people convicted between 1992 and 2021 and thousands more who were convicted in the District of Columbia, The New York Times reported.

"There are thousands of people who have prior federal convictions for marijuana possession, who may be denied employment, housing or educational opportunities as a result," he said.

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The president will also move to review the classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug.

RELATED Study: States legalizing pot saw big drop in synthetic cannabinoid poisonings

Referring to the United States' opioid crisis, Biden noted that marijuana is scheduled "even higher than fentanyl and methamphetamine -- the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic."

Even though Biden is advocating a move away from marijuana criminalization, he said "important limitations on trafficking, marketing and underage sales should stay in place."

Some states have taken similar action.

RELATED Bill to legalize cannabis nationwide introduced in Senate

Last year, the Los Angeles District Attorney moved to dismiss nearly 60,000 marijuana convictions, with tens of thousands dismissed the year before. And Virginia passed a law last year calling for automatic expungement of past misdemeanor marijuana convictions.

Congress has been debating the federal legalization of marijuana for years as more states have decriminalized possession or made it fully legal.

Five states have recreational marijuana on the ballot in the Nov. 8 election: Missouri, Arkansas, Maryland, North Dakota and South Dakota.

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