Biden’s marijuana pardons are welcome stopgapPosted by On

President Biden on Friday demonstrated the proper use of presidential clemency power when he pardoned thousands of people who had been convicted of various nonviolent marijuana violations on federal land.

The reasons he cited included addressing racial disparities in drug prosecution and sentencing, and that’s an important point. Criminal laws in theory cover all Americans equally, but in practice, laws punishing possession or use of small amounts of cannabis have been enforced over the years disproportionately against Black people. Unequal enforcement can render a colorblind law racist and an instrument of injustice. Clemency is a tool that, when wielded properly, can remediate flaws in the administration of criminal law.

It was the second time Biden has granted cannabis pardons. The first round in December 2022 covered most people convicted of marijuana use and possession. Last week’s action included many who fell through the cracks, such as those convicted of “attempted possession.”

The two separate actions are welcome but don’t correct the underlying problem. We still have federal laws and regulations that impose sanctions out of proportion to the alleged harm. Marijuana remains a “Schedule 1” drug under the Controlled Substances Act, a more serious classification than that applied to fentanyl, which few dispute is a far more harmful substance if misused. Possession and use of marijuana in the District of Columbia or on federal land can still result in…

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