(WKBN) – On Thursday, President Joe Biden made a major announcement about people serving time for simple possession of marijuana, pardoning federal convictions.
He also asked the Department of Health and Human Services and the attorney general to review how marijuana is scheduled. Currently, the federal government classifies pot as being more dangerous than fentanyl.
Biden also asked state governors to pardon people convicted of simple possession on the state level.
As it stands now, marijuana is still illegal federally, but as one advocate explains, de-scheduling marijuana would mean immediate legalization for many states. If that happens, states like Ohio would have no regulations in place to prohibit the sale to minors.
“Ohio, like many other states, has a law that says if a drug on the list of controlled substances under federal law changes, if it moves from schedule I to schedule III or if it is removed from the controlled substances list, under federal law, that change is automatically reflected under Ohio law,” said Tom Haren, spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.
Haren is an advocate for legalizing marijuana and regulating it like alcohol.
“It would be legal overnight, automatically could be sold anywhere by anyone to anyone with no testing requirements, etc.,” Haren said.
He says since the Biden administration is expediting the process to change laws surrounding marijuana, Ohio should be pre-emptive and put regulations in place in case it becomes legal.
“We’ve put forward our proposal because we think the time to act is now. Right. We don’t want to be reactive to what happens from the federal government,” Haren said.
That proposal gained the required number of signatures to put it before the legislature this past January.
“By virtue of a settlement that we reached in the spring of this year, our proposal will be retransmitted to the general assembly this January, and then the general assembly will have four months to act on the proposal,” Haren said.
About 6,500 people are to be pardoned on the federal level.
We spoke with Bill Teets who is a spokesperson with Ohio Jobs and Family Services. He says since marijuana is a misdemeanor in Ohio, he doesn’t expect there to be a large exodus of people from prison in Ohio. But Jobs and Family Services does have tips and information on their website to help people who were previously convicted of a crime.