Gov. Ned Lamont is praising a new reform initiative from the Biden Administration changing the way the country approaches marijuana.
As part of this new initiative, all prior federal offenses for simple possession of marijuana will be pardoned. President Biden says he has directed Attorney General Merrick Garland to establish a process to issue those pardons. Speaking with the press, a senior administration official said this would affect about 6,500 people who were arrested on such charges between 1992 and 2021.
“Having an unregulated cannabis marketplace has not worked,” said Lamont in a statement Thursday. “I am glad that as a nation we are recognizing the impact that these laws have had and are taking action to move beyond and correct this terrible period of incarceration and injustice.”
According to FBI statistics, in 2019, 32% of all drug arrests were for marijuana, 48% of those in the Northeast. Those arrests fall disproportionately on Black and brown communities, even in states that have legalized the drug.
In addition to pardons, President Biden says he is directing the Department of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to review the way marijuana is scheduled under federal law. Right now, the federal government recognizes marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, classifying it at the same level as heroin and ecstasy and higher than cocaine, meth, and opiates including oxycodone and fentanyl. Schedule 1 drugs are considered to have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”
The final step in the Biden Administration’s marijuana reform plan includes urging state governors to adopt similar state guidelines issuing pardons for simple possession. Connecticut is among a handful of states that already has such pardons in place, automatically scrubbing misdemeanor drug offenses from criminal records after a period of seven years.