Biden Commutes 11 Drug Sentences, Pardons Marijuana Offenders

Biden Commutes 11 Drug Sentences, Pardons Marijuana Offenders
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images News [via Getty Images]

The Facts

  • US Pres. Joe Biden announced Friday that he would commute the sentences of 11 people serving decades-long sentences for non-violent drug charges as well as pardon a larger group of people convicted of federal marijuana possession charges.

  • Explaining its decision to commute the 11 sentences, the White House said some of the individuals were serving life sentences for charges that would be sentenced much less harshly today, such as Earlie Deacon, who was convicted of cocaine distribution.

The Spin

Democratic narrative

Biden is righting not only the wrongs of America's past but of laws that he himself helped pass decades ago. The president now understands what the American people have long understood: Black and Brown people face disproportionately more convictions and longer sentences than their White counterparts. Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end of a system that ruins the lives and career prospects of people who were put away for harmless infractions.

Republican narrative

While prison reform for nonviolent offenses can certainly be debated, this issue shouldn't be about racism. The real data show that the rate of marijuana dependency — a phenomenon discussed by Black intellectuals as far back as W.E.B. Du Bois and Richard Wright — is far higher among Black people than White people. Regarding people in prison today, most of those convicted of so-called nonviolent drug offenses actually pled down from more serious crimes like trafficking or other felonies.

Nerd narrative

There's a 4% chance that marijuana will be removed from Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act before 2024, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

Public figures in this story

Political split



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