It's such a simple conclusion, one that has evolved after years of marijuana policy reform and practice. It's finally one that is being taken seriously.
President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he will pardon people with federal convictions for simple possession of marijuana, a historic move that could help more than 6,500 individuals. He also encouraged America's governors to take similar action.
'Racial disparities around prosecution and conviction'
"Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives – for conduct that is legal in many states," Biden said. "That’s before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction. Today, we begin to right these wrongs."
Read USA TODAY Opinion's Editorial series: Time for change: Federal ban on marijuana use causes more harm than good
A majority of states have laws that permit marijuana in certain circumstances. It's simply become foolhardy to ignore those drug policies:
►About 20 states allow marijuana for medical or recreational use.
►Nearly the same number of states allow marijuana for medical purposes only.
►10 more states allow products with nonpsychoactive compounds.
►Two U.S. territories and Washington, D.C., also have legalized recreational marijuana.
Sound leadership is doing what's right
Sound leadership is taking a stand even when it’s not timely or popular. Sound leadership is doing what's right for a constituency that has been unfairly demonized and imprisoned for nonviolent offenses.
More from USA TODAY Opinion: He's serving 40 years in prison, while legal marijuana makes others rich
After all, Black people are significantly more likely than white people to be locked up for drugs, even though Black and white Americans sell and use drugs at similar rates.
Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives – for conduct that is legal in many states. That’s before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction. Today, we begin to right these wrongs.
— President Biden (@POTUS) October 6, 2022
America is finally having a productive conversation about the decriminalization of marijuana. Biden, as promised, is leading that conversation.
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Fentanyl kills. Heroin kills. Opioids kill. Cocaine kills. Methamphetamine kills. Even alcohol and tobacco – deemed legal and easily accessible – kill. Marijuana isn't harmless, but America's continued war on drugs has many more dangerous and deadly chemical targets to obliterate. It's obscene for marijuana to still be listed as a Schedule 1 drug under federal law.
Biden's action on Thursday is a step in the right direction. It's a step toward the federal decriminalization of marijuana – and it's long overdue.
More from Suzette Hackney:
This is part of a series by USA TODAY Opinion about police accountability and building safer communities. The project began in 2021 by examining qualified immunity and continues in 2022 by examining various ways to improve law enforcement. The project is made possible in part by a grant from Stand Together, which does not provide editorial input.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden's marijuana pardon announcement is step toward decriminalization