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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Lawmaker urges Puerto Rico to follow Biden’s lead, ease penalties for marijuana possession

Rep. Héctor Ferrer Santiago

By The Star Staff

After President Joe Biden announced Thursday that he is erasing prior federal possession convictions for cannabis and beginning the process of loosening federal classification of the drug, an island lawmaker urged the government to take similar action.

“It is evident that the current public policy on drugs in Puerto Rico has failed in recent decades. The historical situation in which we find ourselves makes it worthwhile to seek to temper the legislation to the current reality,” Popular Democratic Party Rep. Héctor Ferrer Santiago said. “It is time to establish a system of civil sanctions that does not lead to the imprisonment of a person for simple possession of cannabis, and at the same time seek to preserve the legitimate interest in not promoting its consumption. That is why it is important to pass House Bill 1191 of my authorship.”

Biden on Thursday reportedly said he will pardon all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession, a move that senior administration officials said would affect thousands of Americans charged with that crime.

The president also urged governors to take similar steps to pardon state simple marijuana possession charges, a move that would potentially affect many thousands more Americans, according to U.S. media outlets.

Biden asked the Department of Health and Human Services and Attorney General Merrick Garland to review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law with the goal of easing a federal classification that currently places marijuana in the same category as heroin and LSD.

“No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said in a video announcing his executive actions. “It’s legal in many states, and criminal records for marijuana possession have led to needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities.”

“And that’s before you address the racial disparities around who suffers the consequences,” the president said on CNN. “While white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people are arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”

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