President Joe Biden announced yesterday that he will pardon people with federal convictions of simple marijuana possession. Thousands of people will have their convictions pardoned as a result.
The following statement can be attributed to Monica Hopkins, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia (ACLU-D.C.):
"The President's announcement is a victory for fairness, racial justice, and redemption in the District. Thousands persecuted for marijuana possession will get a second chance and not continue to face the consequences for behavior that is now legal in the District of Columbia. Thousands who have been haunted by a criminal conviction will now have fewer barriers to housing, employment, education, and stability. This action is a long overdue step for racial justice. As our 2013 report, The War on Marijuana in Black and White, demonstrated, a Black District resident was eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white resident, despite similar use rates.
"While we applaud this action, it also highlights the continuing injustice of the denial of statehood to the District of Columbia. Because D.C. is not a state, residents with marijuana convictions under D.C. law had to rely on a Presidential pardon instead of similar action at the local level, which might have come decades earlier if D.C. had the power to govern our own affairs. Congress's rider still prohibits us from benefiting from marijuana legalization.
"Currently, federal law enforcement officers still may arrest anyone in the District for possession of any amount of marijuana and marijuana remains prohibited in public housing. In addition, Secretary Becerra and Attorney General Garland should immediately work to reschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. This correction is long overdue. D.C. needs statehood and a reclassification of marijuana to address the historic wrongs of the War on Drugs holistically."