The National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles (NLG-LA) applauds President Joe Biden for his decision to pardon those who have been convicted of simple possession of marijuana. This action is an important step forward in recognizing the damage caused by the failed War on Drugs, which has served only to feed the cycles of poverty and mass incarceration.
When a person is convicted of a drug offense, they are often sentenced to a life of poverty. After all, landlords and employers use a criminal record as an excuse to discriminate. This discrimination means that opportunities are unfairly denied. Communities of color disproportionately bear this burden. As data from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) bears out, Black people have historically disproportionately been arrested for marijuana-related offenses, despite having comparable usage rates to white people. This is an injustice, and we are happy that the President is taking steps to address it.
This action, while necessary, does not fully address the injustices created by the War on Drugs. Marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, and a future administration could take a more punitive and draconian approach. We support efforts to legalize marijuana nationally and call on Congress to take appropriate action. The War on Drugs has resulted in the perpetuation of the cycle of poverty and is a driver of mass incarceration. We applaud the President for this first step and look forward to further action.