March 7, 2024 – President Joe Biden reiterated that nobody should go to prison for cannabis use, and touted his administration’s moves to evaluate whether federal marijuana restrictions should be loosened. Cannabis is currently categorized as a Schedule I drug, the same classification as heroin. 

In his speech, Biden said his administration expunged thousands of cannabis records, but his executive order used different language — it said he would issue pardons to people with cannabis offenses. It’s an important difference, because someone with an expunged record can say they do not have a criminal record on a job application or background check, while those with pardoned records cannot.

Biden was the only Democratic presidential candidate in 2020 to not wholly embrace cannabis decriminalization. The fact that he is mentioning these actions at the State of the Union address, even if they fall short of full federal legalization, signals that he cannot ignore the interest in cannabis policy from voters key to his reelection campaign.