Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01) and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) released a joint statement following President Biden's announcement to pardon anyone who has been convicted of simple marijuana possession and his call to review the classification of marijuana.
"Yesterday's announcement from President Biden is welcome news and long overdue. By granting pardons to thousands of people convicted on simple federal marijuana possession charges and calling for a review of marijuana classification, President Biden is making a strong statement on the need to address the long-term impacts of the war on drugs, and for that, we applaud him. We also know that the vast majority of simple marijuana possession convictions happen at the state level, therefore, we echo the President's call for Governors to follow suit.
"Overall, we must begin to recognize substance use as what it is: a public health issue. The criminalization of poverty, drug use, and possession, inequitable access to resources, and the militarization of police have all had devastating impacts, particularly on Black and brown communities. Last year, we introduced the Drug Policy Reform Act, legislation that would decriminalize all drugs, expunge and seal records, and make investments in health-centered approaches to substance use. Without proper redress and structural solutions rooted in equity and public health, lives will continue to be at risk and our nation's families and communities will continue to be destabilized. We have an opportunity to fully transform federal drug policy in our country-- and we cannot let it pass us by. We must save lives, protect Black and brown communities, and eliminate injustice everywhere it exists in our society. We urge Congress to swiftly advance our lifesaving bill. "
Representatives Bush and Watson Coleman introduced the Drug Policy Reform Act of 2021 in August 2021. This legislation would end criminal penalties for drug possession at the federal level and shift regulatory authority from the Justice Department to the Department of Health and Human Services. This bill would also expunge existing records and provide for resentencing, reinvest in alternative health-centered approaches, and eliminate many of the life-long consequences associated with drug arrests and convictions: the denial of employment, public benefits, immigration status, drivers' licenses and voting rights.
Today, drug possession continues to be the number one arrest in the United States, with more than 1.35 million arrests per year. Approximately every 25 seconds, a person is arrested for possessing drugs for personal use, with Black and Brown people disproportionately targeted by over-policing.