Biden’s pardons will help thousands with past convictions, but few today are in federal prison just for possessing marijuana

By Charles R. Davis, Insider

President Joe Biden’s decision to grant pardons to people who have been convicted of marijuana possession at the federal level reflects a broader, bipartisan shift away from incarceration for cannabis.

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In a statement on Thursday, Biden said that “no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana.” And while his pardons will be welcome news for those with a federal conviction — an obstacle to stable housing and steady employment — only a handful of people will be freed because of it.

The vast majority of those serving time for drug possession are doing so at the state level, though in his statement announcing the pardons Biden encouraged governors to do the same with prisons in their jurisdictions.

According to the United States Sentencing Commission, a federal agency, in the fiscal year 2021, which ended last June, just 149 people were in federal prison for simple possession of marijuana, down from more than 2,000 in the fiscal year 2015.

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