WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Joe Biden announced Thursday he is pardoning thousands of Americans convicted of "simple possession" of marijuana under federal law, and the decision is already sparking controversy in West Palm Beach.
WPTV spoke to several people on Thursday to hear their thoughts.
"I was very happy to hear about it. I think it’s a move in the right direction," Therese Matthews said. "This is something so small and insignificant and you're not causing harm to people, and I think it could really be positive for them."
Maggie Maguire felt differently.
"I think it's crazy. I don't think anyone should be pardoned for any offense. I think they should be totally liable for whatever it is that they did, keeping these people off the street," Maguire said. "They're not out doing more crimes to get more money for drugs, not being under the influence of drugs or things they normally wouldn't do. It keeps all of us safe."
The president's announcement will directly impact more than 6,500 U.S. citizens from 1992-2021, according to a senior administration official. However, Biden is calling on governors to follow suit, as the vast majority of convictions happen at a state level.
The number of drug-related arrests in Florida is not available, since only two of 757 agencies report their numbers, according to the FBI.
The FBI database specifies that police made at least 170,856 marijuana-related arrests nationwide in 2021, but only 34% of the agencies reported.
The American Civil Liberties Union is also responding to the decision, calling it a victory.
The ACLU said in a statement to WPTV:
“But this should be just the beginning. We urge President Biden and governors not to stop with pardons for convictions of simple marijuana possession, but to use their clemency powers in new and transformational ways to remedy the harm caused by decades of draconian criminal laws; harm that is felt disproportionately by Black and brown communities.”