This commentary is by William J. Bennet and Seth Leibsohn. Mr. Bennett served as U.S. education secretary, 1985-88, and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 1989-90. Mr. Leibsohn is a radio host in Phoenix and a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute.
If President Biden had really wanted to do something about the problems facing our cities and states — rising crime, addiction and overdose deaths — he might have done something to prevent illegal drug use. Instead, he chose to minimize the dangers of drug use by granting pardons for criminals convicted of marijuana possession under federal law. In so doing, Mr. Biden has sent the country the wrong signal at the wrong time.
“No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Mr. Biden said in his Oct. 6 statement. “Sending people to prison for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit.”
At best the claim that the federal government is upending lives for simple pot possession is a straw man. At worst it’s dishonest. White House officials claim the policy will affect 6,500 people with marijuana possession convictions reaching back to 1992. But even they had to admit on Friday that “no one is currently serving time in federal prison solely for the crime of simple marijuana possession.”
Overlooked in all of this has been that federal convictions for marijuana crimes are typically not for simple possession. The idea that American prisons are overflowing with people who merely had a joint or two in their pockets is “a myth — an illusion conjured and aggressively perpetuated by drug advocacy groups seeking to relax or abolish America’s marijuana laws,” according to a 2005 paper published by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Most of those locked up for marijuana-related offenses “have been found guilty of much more than simple possession. Some were convicted for drug trafficking, some for marijuana possession along with one or more other offenses. And many of those serving time for marijuana pled down to possession in order to avoid prosecution on much more serious charges.”
Read full article at the Wall Street Journal.