President Biden pardons thousands for marijuana possession

Nazaaha Penick, News Reporter

President Biden’s original campaign promised to decriminalize the use of marijuana for “Black America.” After issuing a proclamation on Oct. 6, the following day Biden pardoned thousands convicted of marijuana possession. These decisions came a month before the midterm elections. 

Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug. According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, a Schedule I drug is a substance or chemical with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Marijuana is grouped in the same category as heroin and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). 

Associate Professor of Politics Susanne Beechey spoke about this classification of marijuana. She contrasted Washington State’s marijuana policy with the federal policy.

“The people of Washington State have voted that marijuana should not be treated the same as Schedule I substances,”  Beechey said.

Sophomore Jess Mapalo supports Washington State’s decision to stray from federal policy.

“I don’t think marijuana should be classified as a Schedule I substance,” Mapalo said. “Implicit in that statement is that it doesn’t have any medicinal use; I’m pretty sure it does.”

Washington and many other states allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, such as for the treatment of pain, nausea and other symptoms.

Sophomore Jasmine Cintron has a family member who claims to have personally experienced the medical benefits of marijuana.

My grandpa actually had skin cancer and used cannabis oil for a good few years; the skin cancer kind of healed itself,” Cintron said. “It’s beneficial. It’s there to grow your mind and expand [it].”

Beechey believes that President Biden’s recent pardons will have larger political implications. 

“A large-scale pardon like this one is offering relief to people suffering under possession laws that are not being enforced in the same manner anymore,” Beechey said. “This pardon is also a tool of presidential leadership to draw attention to the issue and place reforming drug laws on the federal policy agenda.” 

A targeted component of President Biden’s political agenda is to address disproportionate marijuana charges on people of color. His plan to decriminalize marijuana is posted under the headline: “Lift Every Voice: The Biden Plan For Black America.” 

As a person of color, Cintron noted a stereotypical connection between marijuana usage and race.

“There is this idea that Black people or people of color are the ones taking part in marijuana and that it’s not for good use,” Cintron said. “[There’s the idea that] they’re abusing it and that all they’re going to be are lazy potheads.”

Beechey referenced Michelle Alexander’s book “The New Jim Crow,” which explains the federal government’s use of drug laws to target the Black community.  

“Michelle Alexander, in her book ‘The New Jim Crow,’ argues that mass incarceration of Black people in the United States — fueled by the War on Drugs, possession laws and mandatory minimums — is a continuity of a racial regime that she traces through Jim Crow segregation [and] enslavement,” Beechey said.

Mapalo also commented on the racialized history of marijuana. She advocated for stronger political action to address the racial stereotypes behind the drug. 

“I think it serves as a wake-up call to our deep Eurocentric roots,” Mapalo said. “It’s frustrating that this is the current state of our country, but [it] highlights the inner work that needs to be done on both an individual and collective level.”

Beechey commented on the growth of policy that decriminalizes drug use, like President Biden’s plan.

The marijuana decriminalization and legalization movement has been quite successful with a state-by-state strategy,” Beechey said. “Those changes toward the treatment of marijuana in state law are putting pressure on the federal government to respond.”

Mapalo argued that political changes are felt most by marginalized communities. She explained the importance of dismantling systems that harm people of color. 

“As a person of color, it’s a lot easier to feel all of the resulting political distortion because we are subject to the laws more often,” Mapalo said. “We need change. We need people to be free of systemic disadvantages and have the qualities of lives that they deserve.”