Biden pardons marijuana use nationwide. Here's what that means

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced Friday he's issuing a federal pardon to every American who has used marijuana in the past, including those who were never arrested or prosecuted.

The sweeping pardon applies to all U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents in possession of marijuana for their personal use and those convicted of similar federal crimes. It also forgives pot users in the District of Columbia. It does not apply to individuals who have been jailed for selling the drug, which is illegal under federal law, or other marijuana offenses such as driving under the influence of an illegal substance.

The implication of Biden's pardon promises to have significant implications, as criminal records for marijuana use and possession have imposed barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. However, the pardons do not apply to people who violated state law, and anyone who wants to receive a pardon will have to apply for clemency through the Department of Justice.

April 2, 2022: A demonstrator waves a flag with marijuana leaves depicted on it during a protest calling for the legalization of marijuana, outside of the White House in Washington D.C.. President Joe Biden is pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law, as his administration takes a dramatic step toward decriminalizing the drug and addressing charging practices that disproportionately impact people of color.

He issued a similar pardon last year and promised future reforms. This year's proclamation went further in that it forgave all instances of simple marijuana use or possession under federal law, including for individuals who have never been charged.

In a statement, Biden said Americans should not be sent to prison solely for using or possessing marijuana. He urged governors to forgive state offenses.

"Criminal records for marijuana use and possession have imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana.  It’s time that we right these wrongs," Biden said.

More:Many Americans arrested for marijuana won't find relief under Biden's pardon plan

Biden also commuted the sentences of 11 people he said are "serving disproportionately long sentences for non-violent drug offenses" and would have received lesser sentences if they were charged today.

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