Joe Biden
Joe BidenPool/ABACA via Reuters Connect

US President Joe Biden will pardon everyone who has been convicted of simple possession of marijuana under federal law, the White House announced Thursday, according to The Hill.

“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. My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions,” Biden said in a statement quoted by the news website.

The pardons will also include people who have been convicted of simple possession in the District of Columbia.

The announcement represents the most significant action on marijuana the Biden administration has taken to date, and a major step towards decriminalization.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, though some states have moved toward legal use for recreational and medical purposes.

The White House urged governors to take similar action. Administration officials told reporters the pardons could benefit about 6,500 people, though officials said there is nobody in federal prison for simple marijuana possession.

Officials noted there are far more people who have been convicted under state law.

In addition, Biden is asking the secretary of Health and Human Services and the attorney general to “expeditiously” review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.

A senior administration official said the review will take time because “it must be based on a scientific review of the evidence,” and the White House is not going to set an “arbitrary deadline.”