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WASHINGTON– Today, President Biden announced a pardon of all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana and a review of marijuana’s classification as a controlled substance. The following are statements from experts at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

“The criminalization of marijuana has devastated Black and Brown communities in this country for decades. President Biden’s decision today is a crucial step toward addressing the significant harm to our communities. The explicitly racist roots of marijuana policy have disproportionately affected Black communities, driving the disturbing rise of mass incarceration nationwide,” says Damon Hewitt, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “We may not be able to erase all of the damage that the ‘war on drugs’ unleashed on our communities, but this Executive Order gives a chance for those convicted to start anew. We now call on Congress to join President Biden and his administration in passing meaningful reform to not only legalize marijuana but to expunge the records of the millions of Americans who have been harmed by decades of racist and draconian drug laws.”

“This executive action is a good first step toward true, equitable reform to America’s racist drug policies. As the United States moves closer to decriminalization, access to expungement and post-conviction relief must be a top priority for our leaders,” says Tianna Mays Smith, Associate Director for the Criminal Justice Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Black people are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for possession than white people. Those who have been previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes struggle to get jobs, find housing, and become licensed for professional vocations. We must ensure that Black Americans receive their equitable relief. The fight for racial justice and equality needs the support of attorneys and advocates. We at the Lawyers’ Committee will continue to fight for the rights of every American harmed by racist drug policies.”


About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes. For more information, please visit