President Joe Biden celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by delivering a speech on equal justice, civil rights, and more. He made it clear that marijuana reform is a part of his plan, and a necessary step in order to have “equal rights.”
Biden spoke at the national annual MLK breakfast, hosted by the National Action Network (NAN). He was introduced by Reverend Al Sharpton.
“I’m keeping my promise,” said Biden. “No one—I’ll say it again—no one should be in federal prison for the mere possession of marijuana. No one.”
Aside from decriminalizing marijuana, Biden also emphasized expunging the records of those in prison for weed possession. “In addition to that, they should be released from prison and completely pardoned and their entire record expunged so that if they have to ask, ‘Have you ever been [convicted], you can honestly say, ‘No.’”
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Back in October, Biden issued marijuana pardons that became one of the biggest steps forward for marijuana reform and legislation. Despite their unprecedented existence and the fact that he encouraged governors and other state leaders to follow in his footsteps, these pardons are still not enough to expunge the records of many people that have been imprisoned due to marijuana possession.
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Following the pardons, many advocacy groups called for an expansion of these benefits, hoping to have these reach more people and protect them from further crimes associated with marijuana. In November, over 130 advocacy groups banded together in order to push Biden to extend these benefits and include immigrants.
“Moving forward, we urge you to ensure that every step taken to remedy racial injustice includes relief to impacted immigrant communities,” reads a draft letter that was sent to Biden’s administration. “In particular, we urge you to extend protection to all immigrants, regardless of immigration status, and to take necessary steps to ensure that immigrants do not suffer negative immigration consequences from marijuana convictions.”
For the time being, Biden’s pardon only extends relief to US residents and citizens that have been charged with simple possession convictions. Those who’ve been charged with selling cannabis don’t fall under this spectrum.