Joe Biden will pardon thousands of Americans convicted of marijuana possession.
The U.S. president said those with federal convictions for “simple possession” could be “deprived of employment, housing or educational opportunities as a result.”
“My pardon will ease their burden,” he added.
In a White House video, the president also said he was concerned about racial disparities.
“While white, black and brown people have similar rates of marijuana use, black and brown people have much higher rates of arrest, prosecution and conviction,” he said.
Those who benefit from the policy will receive a certificate of pardon, which they can present to potential employers.
The Justice Department said it would begin providing the certificates “in the next few days.”
However, the president said “important restrictions on trafficking, marketing and sales to minors should remain in place”.
Nor did he pardon noncitizens who were in the United States illegally when they were arrested.
The vast majority of marijuana possession cases are at the state level, and he called on governors to follow his lead.
Currently, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I substance in the U.S. “on the same level as heroin and LSD, and more serious than fentanyl,” the president said.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” he commented. He announced a review of how marijuana is organized under federal law.
According to the White House, no one is currently being held in federal prison simply for “simple possession” of the drug.
Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Coalition, said her group was “excited” by Mr Biden’s announcement.
“It’s really late,” she said. “There’s no reason to burden people with criminal records that prevent them from getting jobs, housing and countless other opportunities, because it’s legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and legal in 31. “
In the video, the president said he believed “no one should go to jail just for using or possessing marijuana.”
He added: “It’s already legal in many states. Too many lives have been turned upside down because of our failed approach to cannabis.
“It’s time to rectify these mistakes.”