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Biden Marijuana Pardons Launch Reform Effort

Changing attitudes towards cannabis pave way for more leniency towards low-level offenders.
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Social equity has been part of the rallying cry for the end of the prohibition of weed. 

Studies have shown that members of minority communities face disproportionately higher rates of arrest for simple possession of marijuana than whites. 

The  Federal government has yet to legalize the drug nationwide, although many states have. Other states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug. 

The White House has been tepid in its support of legalization, despite the Democratic party traditionally being viewed as more friendly to marijuana.

But on Thursday, President Joe Biden took steps to reduce some of the harm caused to thousands jailed for simple possession of marijuana. 

Biden issued a proclamation pardoning all current U.S. citizens and permanent residents convicted on federal charges for simple possession of marijuana. 

"As Ive said before, no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana. Today, I'm taking steps to end our failed approach," Biden said on Twitter. 

Biden also called on governors to pardon low level marijuana offenders in state prisons and for Health and Human Services and the Attorney General to initiate the process of rescheduling marijuana under federal law.  

The pardon doesn't apply to non-citizens who were illegally in the country when they were arrested. 

Shares of cannabis companies Tillray  (TLRY) - Get Free Report and Canopy Growth  (CGC) - Get Free Report surged after the announcement. 

Changing Attitudes

While the majority of Americans see the national drug problem as getting worse, only a minority see cannabis as being an issue.

A little more than 20% of respondents to a Rasmussen telephone and online poll said that cannabis is "somewhat dangerous" while 12% said it is "very dangerous."

In contrast, 28% said that the drug was "not very dangerous" and 29% said that cannabis was "not at all dangerous."

Still, about 60% of the 1,000 Americans surveyed said that drug misuse in general is getting "worse" in the country while just 9% said that the issue was getting better.

Attitudes have changed across the political spectrum, helping to lead to the changing attitudes.

A new poll by the National Cannabis Roundtable found that "there's been a massive shift in opinion, and it's evidently clear that Republicans have extremely positive attitudes toward legal cannabis," said former Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, who is now a National Cannabis Roundtable (NCR) board member.

The poll, which was conducted by top Republican and Trump pollster Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, found that 73% of Republicans agree that legal cannabis businesses should have the same rights as other legal businesses, and 76% believe that if a state legalizes cannabis, the federal government should not fight the state.