Since the beginning of his tenure in office, Joe Biden has been questioned for his ability to uphold the promises and solutions he vowed to make once elected—rightfully so, as it is import to hold our elected officials accountable at all times. After it was announced that he would be providing much-needed student loan relief to debt-ridden college graduates, his favorability began to look more optimistic in the eyes of those disadvantaged. Today, President Biden announced that he would be pardoning all those who have been convicted of marijuana possession under federal law. In addition to this, Biden is also aiming to loosen the classification restrictions of marijuana, which could potentially lead to full legalization.
This is major. This is an effect of the longstanding work done by activists in the struggle for total prison reform.
What is most significant about Biden's words is that he fused together the divide that alleged that white individuals consume weed at a lower rate than Black and Brown communities, which is simply not true. We know that, the streets know that and the government knows that. Although weed is now legal in many states across the U.S., decriminalization of marijuana in tandem with legalization has always been the ultimate goal.
There is a vast and distinctive correlation to the way in which the criminaliziation of drugs has been aimed toward people of color in the United States. For over fifty years, the fallout from President Ronald Reagan's anti-drug policy, known as the War on Drugs, has significantly and tremendously impacted Black and Brown communities. This policy has been a dogwhistle for the subjugation of Black and Brown people and has inherently altered the construction of both of these communities. While we can take a moment to find joy in this win, it cannot be overlooked that Biden is righting wrong in a way that has been way overdue.
Thousands upon thousands of people have been wrongfully and nonsensically imprisoned for decades for nonviolent offenses, specifically for the possession of marijuana. As a result, their humanity, their families and the their God-given rights have been stripped away in the name of this racist institution. Should they ever be released, there is no remedy for the psychological and societal toll that such an ordeal places upon them. How can we continue to claim the title of "land of the free" while simultaneously causing irreversible harm to our citizens in the same breath?
Aside from the tremendous amount of funds that can be reallocated toward more responsive, effective and inclusive community safety initiatives or other issues in the U.S., the legalization and decriminalization of weed can also significantly lower the direct devastation of trafficking and violence in our communities at large.
It is without question that many outside the Black and Brown community will benefit from this action as well. However, this historic pardon is a reminder that if one of us—namely Black and Brown folks—are free, then we all get free. There is an immense amount of healing that needs to be done.
Though this may appear as a step toward an end, we are still simply at the beginning. There is still a great deal of work to be done to end unfair practices in the criminal justice system that are racially biased. We have a lot more of our brethren who need to be freed that we cannot forget.