NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — For those who have been there, it’s a relief.
“I think it feels great for them. I mean, I can imagine if I was able to get a pardon, it would be great,” Free Hearts legal adviser Keeda Haynes said. “You would not have to continue to be subjected to all the collateral consequences that people are subjected to.”
President Joe Biden announced a pardon for people with simple cannabis possession charges at the federal level. Haynes went to federal prison on cannabis charges, though the pardon won’t apply to her because her charge wasn’t possession. However, she said it’s a good first step even if it isn’t enough.
“It is a step in the right direction to restoring the harm, but with the United States having the highest incarceration rate in the world with people now profiting off of marijuana, but yet you still have people serving time, people still experiencing collateral consequences,” Haynes said. “Definitely waiting and expecting the president to do more than what he did yesterday.”
Haynes further noted that this is only going to impact about 6,500 people. Theoretically, if you divide that up amongst the 50 states, it’s about 130 people per state.
“That’s the thing,” Haynes said. “Most people are not in federal prison and don’t have federal marijuana convictions for simple possession.”
Still, activists argue it’s a step.
“You don’t just go from zero to 60 overnight,” Jushi Holdings Inc. Chief Commercial Director Trent Woloveck said. “You have to take an incremental step-by-step approach to continue to show that the sky doesn’t fall.”
Jushi owns several cannabis dispensaries around the country.
In his announcement, Biden also made the note that cannabis is classified the same as heroin and a step above fentanyl, and he’s right.
Heroin and cannabis are Schedule I drugs while fentanyl is a Schedule II, even though in 2020 alone, fentanyl accounted for over 50,000 deaths around the country.
For comparison, there were just over 1,000 deaths linked to cannabis from the turn of the century until now.
“People have come to realize that the sky doesn’t fall by using cannabis. People all of a sudden don’t become lazy,” Woloveck said. “So, people are looking at it as an alternative to pharmaceuticals, to alcohol, to many of the other things you see people use from a recreational perspective or a medical perspective.”
Of course, not everyone is following Biden’s lead. He urged governors to follow suit, so we reached out to Gov. Bill Lee’s (R-Tennessee) office.
The response was to the point, with his press secretary writing back in an email, “We’re not considering this in Tennessee.”