Earlier this month, President Joe Biden announced what many perceived to be one of the largest acts of clemency in history. Biden said he was rolling out a mass pardon for all those currently sitting in jail on a federal marijuana possession charge. This announcement was a breath of fresh air considering this country’s horrific track record when it comes to kidnapping, caging, and killing people over this plant.
While this sounds like a major move on the surface, when we take a closer look, it doesn’t appear to be major, or, in fact, any move at all. According to an analysis of federal drug convictions from fiscal years 1992-2021, there have been 6,577 offenders in which the only substance involved in the offense was marijuana.
The president pardoning 6,500 people sounds pretty incredible until we look at the number of people who are currently in custody. That number sits a zero.
You read that correctly. The president announced that he was going to free all the people convicted of federal marijuana possession — but there is no one to free. In an article earlier this month, the NY Daily News explained why that is:
First, presidential clemency extends only to federal offenders, who are less than 13% of all those imprisoned for serious crimes. The other 87% are state law violators subject to gubernatorial mercies.
Second, federal jurisdiction is limited to certain offenses, like drug and gun crimes that cross state or international borders.
Third, the feds have special law enforcement agencies, like Drug Enforcement Administration, that are not interested in small potatoes, such as street-level pushers — or pot possessors like those Biden pardoned. They’re generally after big-time narcotics importers, manufacturers and distributors, and they’re the ones who go to federal prisons.
The result is that in the entire United States there were only 757 marijuana possession cases decided in the federal courts in 2020. Four hundred thirty-seven of these defendants were convicted, all but two by guilty pleas. Some of these cases were worse than they seem, since prosecutors often accept a guilty plea to simple possession if there are problems in proving the more serious drug charges. Still, of the 437 convicted a mere 161 went to federal prison. They weren’t there long, as the average sentence was less than six months. Now you know why no one got out of prison as a result of Biden’s pardon.
This “pardon” wasn’t a pardon at all and was little more than political grandstanding. If Biden was truly concerned with inciting peaceful change, he could’ve extended this pardon to all federal drug offenders — which happen to make up nearly half of all federal inmates.
This group is largely made up of folks who sold arbitrary substances deemed illegal by the state, however, the government is not interested in pardoning them at all.
On top of issuing a toothless pardon, Biden also asked Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to reconsider the Schedule 1 rating given to marijuana. Despite the fact that there have been hundreds if not thousands of studies on the benefits of cannabis to safely treat multiple ailments and diseases, spanning the course of centuries, the FDA has failed to approve its use for anything.
Harvard and other Ivy league researchers have shown the ability of cannabis to treat chronic pain faced by millions of Americans from conditions like multiple sclerosis, and nerve pain in general. Yet the FDA remains mum. They did, however, approve opioids for the treatment of pain in 12-year-old children, and judging from the nearly 100,000 people who’ve died in the last year alone from overdoses, we’ve seen how that turned out.
Nothing highlights the hypocrisy, immorality, and sheer idiocy of the drug war quite like marijuana prohibition. Here we have a medicine that kills cancer cells, saves the lives of countless epileptic children, heals broken bones, relieves pain, treats PTSD, is not dangerous, and exhibits a variety of other incredible benefits – yet the state will kill you over it.
The hypocrisy of cannabis remaining a Schedule I drug while the FDA grants approval to drugs like Solvay Pharmaceuticals’ Marinol cannot be understated. Both Marinol and Syndros contain an exact chemical copy of the THC molecule and produce the same effect as cannabis, however, you cannot grow Marinol or Syndros in your backyard, therefor it is illegal.
So, anyone thinking the ice cream-eating senile old man will affect any positive change in this arena should probably wait outside the gates of Leavenworth next month for all the pardoned marijuana prisoners to start walking out.
This article was originally featured at The Free Thought Project and is republished with permission.