Will Missouri Legalize Marijuana for Recreational Use in 2022

President Biden Pardoning Federal Marijuana Possession Offenses and Starting the Rescheduling Process For Marijuana

  • Pardons To All Federal Prisoners Serving Time For MJ Offenses

  • Statistics Are Shocking 

  • Only On The Federal Level 

  • Marijuana Still Needs To Be Rescheduled or De-scheduled

In a shocking turn of events, President Biden said he would grant pardons to all the federal prisoners currently serving time for marijuana possession. A victory for people whose only offense was having marijuana. It’s a good thing and can change how the United States handles marijuana in the legal sense. 

October 6, 2022, will likely be remembered as a historical date. Amid the whirlwind of other policy changes, the current president has been working on, came a surprise victory for cannabis users everywhere. The unprecedented development is a long time coming and could change how the US treats marijuana-related offenses for decades to come. 

Not only is this good news for those already convicted, but it also serves as a victory for advocates on behalf of those imprisoned for simple marijuana possession. 

So, what do Biden’s actions actually mean in the grand scheme of things? Let’s take a look.

The Statistics Are Shocking

First, let’s take a look at the stats. According to the ACLU, simple marijuana possession arrests disproportionately affect people of color and racial minorities the most. Arrests for marijuana possession over the past few decades have been egregious. According to the ACLU, 88% of marijuana arrests weren’t related to selling, distribution, or usage. They happened just because someone happened to have marijuana on them. And it gets worse. In a more recent report entitled A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform (available here), more than six million people were arrested for possession offenses between 2010 and 2018. A significant amount of the data shows that African Americans are arrested and jailed more frequently for possession than Caucasian individuals. On top of that, the amount of jail time is disproportionate as well. Worse, most arrests (87% or more) are for simple marijuana possession. Something needed to change, leading to Biden’s actions. 

It's Only At The Federal Level

Biden’s actions don’t legalize or decriminalize marijuana. It merely starts the process of reclassification (or straight removal) of marijuana from the US federal drug schedule. It also only happens at the federal level. Individual state governors are responsible for pardoning their own marijuana possession offenses. Biden did ask state governors to take up the task, but it’s too early to see what’ll happen from here. Biden’s actions only affect the 6,500 or so people who were convicted of marijuana possession on a federal level. This effectively helps them drop a felony from their record, and they’re no longer going to be held in prisons. The pardon doesn’t affect higher-level marijuana crimes, nor does it impact the states. 

Hands of God

How Does it Affect States?

Governors in each state need to decide whether to pardon prisoners as Biden did at the federal level. Some states already take it upon themselves to tackle the problem. States like Colorado, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Maryland have already made it easier for those convicted of possession to have their records sealed or removed. Whether other states will follow suit is debatable. Qualified persons visiting cannabis dispensaries in various states will still be able to purchase marijuana in the amounts specified by the state, per their own legal requirements. For recreational marijuana, it could vary by the legality of the state. For medical marijuana, it’s business as usual. Missouri residents will still visit licensed dispensaries in their state. Ditto for Texas residents. Residents of the Sunshine State can still visit Florida dispensaries for their medical marijuana.

What It Actually Means

There are significant unknown variables at the moment, so it’s too early to tell how Biden’s announcement will affect the entire industry across the United States. Biden has also announced plans to remove marijuana from the list of Schedule I narcotics. Schedule I includes heroin and LSD but excludes compounds like cocaine. He’s tasked US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to start the long, arduous, and complicated process of rescheduling marijuana under federal law. If he’s successful, it will be another major step toward ending the prohibition of marijuana. It’s unclear what effect this announcement will have on the US cannabis industry, but it looks like legalization might be on the horizon.

Marijuana Still Needs To Be Rescheduled or De-scheduled

Even after the dust settles, marijuana still needs to either be de-scheduled or rescheduled on the Federal Drug Schedule. That’s a complicated and arduous process. It begins with a petition for rescheduling or de-scheduling by the Drug Enforcement Administration. If the DEA agrees with the petition, they schedule another hearing and submit their recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Then it’s a matter of implementation and hopefully sweeping change for marijuana across the entire United States of America

Sources and additional reading

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