‘Nobody should have to go to jail for smoking weed’: VP Kamala Harris urges state pardons
A fully budded marijuana plant ready for trimming is seen at the Botanacare marijuana store ahead of their grand opening on New Year's day in Northglenn, Colorado December 31, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking/File Photo

President Biden announced pardons on October 6th for all convicted of cannabis possession at the federal level.

The executive order covers around 6,500 people, all of whom will no longer carry a felony on their record that could cause issues when applying for a job or housing.

In an interview Monday evening on the Late Night Show, Vice President Kamala Harris urged governors and state legislators to follow the Biden administration's lead and pardon those who have been criminalized for possession of marijuana.

Watch the interview below:

‘Nobody should have to go to jail for smoking weed’: VP Kamala Harris urges state pardons | RawStory.TV‘Nobody should have to go to jail for smoking weed’: VP Kamala Harris urges state pardons | RawStory.TV

Marijuana is now fully legal in 19 U.S. states and allowed for medical use in 37. The majority of states that have legalized marijuana have also expunged the records of nonviolent offenders or issued them pardons. Biden has called on governors to give similar pardons in their states, where most possession cases are prosecuted.

In Biden’s announcement speech for the new executive order he pointed out the race disparity in marijuana convictions in the U.S. saying, “While white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates."

"Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit," Biden said in a statement last week.

He is correct in his statement. Research by the American Civil Liberties Union has shown Black Americans are nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.

In a new NPR article, Patrice Willoughby, vice president of policy and legislative affairs at the NAACP, praised the executive order as a step in the right direction for the African American community. She stated, "We've seen since the 1970s that marijuana policy was intentionally and malevolently constructed to target the African American community. And too many people have been caught up as a result of that and have been denied jobs, opportunity, housing and other benefits of this country because of a malevolent policy. This is a step towards restorative justice."

Although it may be a step in the right direction, thousands of people continue to be arrested for marijuana offenses annually. Data from NORML estimates that about 350,000 people were arrested for marijuana-related offenses in 2020, of which roughly 91% were for possession offenses only.

Unless governors heed the Biden administration’s call to pardon simple marijuana possession charges on a state level, thousands will remain incarcerated across the country.

In the coming days, the office will implement a formal process to provide pardoned individuals with a certificate of pardon.

Biden also announced that he has instructed Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland to begin reviewing how marijuana is classified under federal drug laws. He pointed out that marijuana is currently a Schedule 1 substance under federal drug sentencing guidelines, “the same as heroin and LSD — and more serious than fentanyl,” he said. “It makes no sense.”

While there’s more to be done, some believe Biden’s action is a great first step.