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Official White House Photo by Erin Scott

Marijuana has never been more mainstream in America.

Thirty-nine states have legalized the drug for medical use. Nineteen of those have ended penalties for recreational use as well.

According to a report from the Marijuana Policy Project, legal cannabis sales have generated a combined total of $11.2 billion in tax revenue since 2014, when they began in Colorado and Washington.

While some of the old stigma surrounding the drug may be gone, and many states have phased out, gotten rid of or lessened penalties for its possession — multitudes of Americans have been left behind to pay the price of its previous prohibition.

President Joe Biden seeks to rectify that imbalance. Today he announced he is pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law.


"There are thousands of people who have prior federal convictions for marijuana possession, who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result," Biden said in a statement. "My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions."

According to Biden the move, which fulfills a pledge he made during his campaign, is the first step for the administration toward decriminalizing the drug and addressing charging practices that disproportionately impact people of color.

"Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either," he said.

The pardon covers the thousands who have been convicted of the crime in the District of Columbia as well, and Biden has called on the governors of every state to issue similar pardons — a critical move since most marijuana possession cases involve those convicted of state offenses.

Biden added, "Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

Read the full text of his proclamation here.

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