Vice President Kamala Harris holds roundtable on marijuana policies

Vice President Kamala Harris reignited the call to decriminalize pot and move to expunge federal marijuana charges.
Posted at 8:57 PM, Mar 15, 2024

In a Friday roundtable at the White House, Vice President Kamala Harris doubled down on the Biden administration’s promise to change federal marijuana policy, highlighting pardons, work toward recategorizing cannabis and urging governors to pardon offenders on the state level. 

"Far too many people have been sent to jail for simple marijuana possession," said Harris. 

Three people pardoned by President Joe Biden for federal marijuana convictions attended the event. They joined Kentucky’s Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear and Grammy-nominated rapper Fat Joe. Harris says criminal justice reform around cannabis is changing lives and giving many a second chance. 

"Their stories are proof of the importance of pardons. Black Americans and Latinos are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession," she said.  

Harris is in step with President Biden who highlighted the issue during his State of the Union address.  

"No one should be jailed for simply using or having it on their record," said President Biden. 

In 2022, the president issued a sweeping pardon for thousands with federal marijuana possession convictions on their record. The process moved slowly, but for many, it was worth the wait. 

In 2014, Chris Goldstein was convicted for smoking pot in a federal park. He was among the first pardoned by President Biden. He says a long road lies ahead.

"I have to say the power of a pardon from the White House, people really feel it and it goes a long way to healing our whole community, not just us," said Goldstein. "The clemency that we talked about today isn't reaching thousands of people who are still in prison for marijuana violations. And we'd love to see that."

Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, in the same category as heroin.  The White House is seeking to change that to Schedule III alongside testosterone and ketamine. 

"Marijuana is considered as dangerous as heroin, and more dangerous than fentanyl, which is absurd. Not to mention patently unfair," said Harris. 

Decriminalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use was supported by 88% in a 2022 Pew poll. Nearly half of U.S. adults say they have used marijuana. And two-thirds of adults favor releasing those convicted of marijuana crimes from prison. 

More than 1 in 10 high school seniors use hemp-derived drug
Homegrown cannabis plant.

More than 1 in 10 high school seniors use hemp-derived drug

Over 1 in 10 high school seniors reported using a hemp product that gives a similar high to marijuana but is sold legally in gas stations.