EDITORIAL: If it’s not a crime, why are they doing time?

Editorial Board

Last week, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to pardon charges of marijuana possession under federal law. This move was made in light of many states legalizing recreational marijuana.

We at the News believe that this decision should be replicated on the state level where recreational marijuana is legal. People shouldn’t be in prison for charges for something which is now allowed. 

While the national pardon is important, it only covers a small number of people since most possession charges are on the state and local level. Removing these charges, many of which come with overly heavy sentencing, would repair many damages to people of color perpetuated by the so-called “War on Drugs.” 

This “war” had an especially notable effects on the Black community; according to the ACLU, Black people are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana charges than white people in the U.S., despite the fact that both groups use marijuana at about the same rate. 

Illinois has even more of a jarring statistical difference: Black people are around 7.5 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people in this state, according to the ACLU. 

Whether you agree with the decision or not, marijuana is now legal in the state of Illinois- but many people are still in prison. 

One could argue that these people did technically break the law at the time and therefore deserve punishment, but these punishments are already far too severe. 

In many states, holding even a few grams of weed can result in prison time or thousands of dollars in fines. 

Prison time splits up families, leaving partners and children learning how to survive without them. Additionally, American prisons often fail to provide effective rehabilitation, meaning that repeat crimes are highly likely. Prison time can also lead to poverty due to time without work and is one of the most prevalent causes for crime. This traps convicts in a loop which is near impossible to escape in today’s economy. 

Nobody should have to deal with any of this, especially not on charges for something that anyone of age is now free to do. We at the News believe that marijuana possession charges should be pardoned in Illinois, and in any other state which is now profiting off of the sale of marijuana.