Background Marijuana Reform Press Release | Catch My Job


Via teleconference

2:48 PM EDT

MISTER. MUNOZ: All right. Hello everyone. This is Kevin Munoz. Thank you for joining today’s press call on short notice.

As a reminder, this call will be on the back burner, attributable to “senior administration officials,” and will be embargoed until 3:01 PM ET. We will also have several embargoed materials in the next few minutes that will be embargoed at the same time.

On today’s call, we have [senior administration official] and [senior administration official]. And with that, I’ll hand it over [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you, Kevin. Regards to all. Thanks for being with us. Today, the president will announce in a video and statement that he is taking steps to end our failed approach to marijuana.

As he often said, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana. It has ruined too many lives and imprisoned people for behavior that is legal in many states. And while white, black, and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, black and brown people are disproportionately incarcerated for it.

Members of Congress have been working on this issue with one significant bill that passed the House, but that effort has stalled, and we’re almost at the end of this Congress.

So today, the president is taking executive action to address the country’s failed approach to marijuana. It will announce three steps.

First, the president pardons all prior federal misdemeanor simple possession of marijuana. This pardon also applies to all persons convicted of simple possession of marijuana under District of Columbia law.

There are thousands of people with prior federal marijuana possession convictions who can be denied housing, employment or educational opportunities as a result. This pardon will help to remove those collateral consequences.

The President has directed the Attorney General to develop an administrative process for issuing clemency certificates to eligible individuals.

Second, the president is urging all governors to do the same regarding state misdemeanors for simple possession of marijuana. Just as no one should be in federal prison simply for possessing marijuana, no one should be in local jail or state prison for that reason.

Third, the President is asking the HHS Secretary and the Attorney General to expeditiously review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law. Federal law currently classifies marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act as the same schedule as heroin and LSD, and even higher than the classifications for fentanyl and methamphetamine—the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic.

And the president will make it clear today that even as federal and state marijuana laws change, important restrictions on the sale, marketing and sale to minors should remain in place.

With that, I’ll open it up for questions.

MISTER. MUNOZ: Okay, thank you. First question, let’s go to Chris Megerian of the Associated Press.

K Hello everyone. Can you say specifically which charges are being pardoned? What are the actual categories of charges? And will it take place immediately? So, do people win — or will they be released from prison immediately?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So the category — this is [senior administration official]. The category of charges is for “simple possession” of marijuana, which is under both federal law and DC Code. There is a special statute.

In terms of pardon administration, the Department of Justice will create an administrative process for pardonees to receive a certificate of pardon so that they have documentation to show to law enforcement employers and others as needed.

MISTER. MUNOZ: All right, let’s go to Kaitlan Collins on CNN.

Q Thank you very much for doing this. Two questions. First, how many people do you estimate will be affected by this? And, secondly, can you talk about why you’re doing this now and the time behind it?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We estimate that over 6,500 people with prior federal convictions for simple possession of marijuana and thousands of such convictions under DC law could benefit from this relief.

Like [senior administration official] he said, the pardon will remove the barriers to opportunity that these marijuana possession convictions have posed for housing, educational and employment opportunities for years.

And this is important, like huge — and also, you know, we can’t do it alone. The president calls on the governors to take this action. This is important, since the vast majority of marijuana possession convictions are state convictions.

That’s something that the president talked about, and he’s — he’s following through on his campaign commitment.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, I’ll just add to the timing question: I mean, the president has been clear that our marijuana laws are not working.

As I mentioned above, members of Congress have been working on this issue, but that effort has stalled, and we’re almost at the end of Congress. So the president has considered his options and is now taking executive action to address the country’s failed approach to marijuana.

I’ll also just note that today’s pardons build on the president’s historic pardons in April when he announced 75 commutations and three pardons, the earliest exercise of pardon authority by any of the five presidents who preceded him. So then he said he would take further clemency measures, and today he did.

MISTER. MUNOZ: Thank you. Let’s go to Nancy Cordes on CBS.

Q Thank you. So my question is: You mentioned that this will affect thousands of people. Can you be more specific about how many people are serving time for federal possession of marijuana? You know, any numbers on how many people are going to be affected here.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, so we know that over 6,500 US citizens from 1992 to 2021 were convicted of simple possession of marijuana under federal law. And as we said, there are thousands more who were convicted or (inaudible) from—under the DC code.

Thus, there are currently no individuals in federal prison simply for possession of marijuana. And again, the president is calling on governors to take this action as well, because it’s important because most marijuana convictions happen at the state level.

MISTER. MUNOZ: All right, let’s go to Nate Weikel at The Hill.

Q Hi, thanks for answering my question. Just looking for some more info on the withdrawal time. You know, you said the HHS secretary would review expeditiously. Is there a deadline for making a decision? And how soon do you want to do it?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, and just to emphasize: the president is asking him to revise, not to cancel the schedule or any particular schedule. He asked him to conduct an audit to assess where – what – how marijuana should be classified.

In terms of time, the process will take time because it must be based on a careful consideration of all available evidence, including scientific — scientific and medical information that is available.

In addition, the President is calling on the HHS Secretary and the AG to expeditiously conduct the review. This needs to happen quickly. But, you know, this has to be a serious and careful review of the available evidence. So he doesn’t set an artificial time frame, but he says this should be expeditious.

MISTER. MUNOZ: Let’s go to Eugene Daniels in Politics.

Q Hello everyone. Thanks for doing this. My question is, if, you know, the deprogramming is going to take a long time or it’s going to take a long time, what’s going to happen to the people who are going to be arrested tomorrow for these same crimes?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: [Senior administration official]i guess i can start with this if you want to jump in.

The pardon applies to anyone who has committed the crime of simple possession of marijuana. So anyone who committed that crime could not be prosecuted, at this point, based on that behavior.

[Senior administration official]what do you want to add?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would add — look, there is a proclamation and it is from today’s date. So if the conduct happened before today, then it would — even if the person wasn’t charged or convicted, the pardon covers that conduct. So I’ll add that too.

MISTER. MUNOZ: All right, let’s go to Kelly O’Donnell on NBC.

K Hello. Can you hear me? Yes, thank you very much. On a policy of this importance, is there any reason why the president is doing this on video? And did he have direct contact with any specific clemency requests from people who could directly benefit from this? And when I say “on video”, I mean the video you’re sharing, not an event where reporters can ask him questions about this.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: [Senior administration official]do you want to take that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, I don’t have an answer to — I don’t — there’s no — I don’t think anything should be taken from the fact that — it’s a video as opposed to some other context.

This is an important announcement. It is important that it is widely distributed. He wants to speak directly to the American people, and this will be widely distributed. This is a significant development, and it is — or a significant announcement that fulfills the president’s campaign commitments.

MISTER. MUNOZ: Yes, of course. I know, obviously, that we will maintain a significant reach on social channels, which is important for this announcement.

Last question, let’s go to Malaika Jabali in Essence Magazine.

K Hello. So, according to the announcement, he will work with governors to encourage them to also review this pardon policy in their states. What does that process look like?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Again, right now he’s calling on the governors to follow him. As for the next steps, it wasn’t — we have nothing further to say at this time. But part of the governor’s calling is because many judgments are made at the state level.

MISTER. MUNOZ: All right. Well, thank you all for joining us.

A reminder that this call embargo will be lifted in one minute. Well, thanks. Hello.

3:00 PM EDT


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