President Joe Biden recently admitted that cannabis reform is a matter of racial equity, at least in a way.
In a Tuesday radio interview on The Rickey Smiley Morning Show, the President was asked what he’s done to better the lives of Black Americans since he took office two years ago. Quite surprisingly, Biden highlighted his last month’s cannabis pardons.
“Well, I hope I’ve improved the lives of African Americans like I said I would do. For example, too many African Americans were denied everything from Pell Grants, student loans, housing, et cetera, because they were arrested for possession of marijuana—many too many. Whites as well,” Biden said.
“So anybody who was ever arrested just for the possession of marijuana, their record is expunged,” he added. “They don’t have to list it anymore, and it’s going to free up a lot of opportunities.”
Is this really true?
Pardons Vs Expungements
According to a 2016 report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), a full pardon releases the punishment and wipes out the guilt, making an offender completely innocent in the eyes of the law. And while the impact of pardons shouldn’t be taken for granted, as it also helps reinstate some important civil rights, it is important to highlight they don’t have the same effect as expungements.
As Marijuana Moment’s Kyle Jaeger put it, a pardon “does not clear a person’s record in the same way as an expungement.”
The CRS report also notes that a “pardon recipient may still encounter hurdles when character is a factor of eligibility because a pardon does not eliminate underlying guilt or the commission of the offense itself.” That is, a pardoned person can still face problems with certain employment quests.
“The continued presence of a conviction on a person’s record, notwithstanding a pardon, could still raise barriers with respect to such person’s suitability,” the report reads.
Expungement, on the other hand, goes one step further by removing both the record of the conviction and the underlying guilt.
It is also important to remember that Biden’s cannabis pardons are estimated to benefit approximately 6,500 Americans, while some 40,000 people who were convicted on a state level remain unaffected unless state governors take Biden’s suggestion and do the same. Biden’s cannabis pardons also do not apply to members of the U.S. military or immigrants who were undocumented at the time of their offense.
Taking into account these “exemptions,” it comes as no surprise that cannabis activists protested outside of the White House recently urging Biden to keep his promise and release all those incarcerated over marijuana-related offenses. The action was organized by Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) the Last Prisoner Project (LPP) and DC and Maryland Marijuana Justice (DCMJ/MDMJ).
What’s more, even though Biden regards pardons as a way of improving the lives of Black Americans, one should remember that among those federally convicted for simple marijuana offenses 41.3% are white, 31.8% are Hispanic and 23.6% are Black. Overall, including state-level marijuana offenses, African Americans are arrested at nearly four times the rates of whites despite roughly equal usage rates, according to an ACLU study. Blacks comprise less than 14% of the US population.
So, apart from the pardons, student loan relief and the appointment of the first Black female to the Supreme Court, it seems that Biden has yet to undertake meaningful efforts to help Black Americans.
Perhaps the President should be more aware of his actions. In other words…what they actually achieve and whom they impact the most.
Photo: Benzinga Edit; Sources: Shutterstock
Image and article originally from www.benzinga.com. Read the original article here.