UK Professor, ACLU of Ky. weigh in on President Biden’s marijuana pardons
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - President Biden announced Thursday that thousands of Americans will receive pardons for being federally convicted with simple possession of marijuana.
Kungu Njuguna with the ACLU of Kentucky says this action by the Biden administration could affect hundreds, if not thousands, of Kentuckians.
“51 years ago, President Nixon declared war on drugs and what we’ve seen in those 51 years is a continual use of the criminal legal system,” said Njuguna, a policy strategist for the organization. “We’ve done the same things over and over and over again and it’s failed.”
“There are thousands of people that are still on probation and parole for those violations,” said Tony Love, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Kentucky.
Tony Love has spent a decade at UK, focusing his studies in part on mass incarceration. He says even if the people affected by this move have served out their probation or parole sentences, they still had reduced rights as a US citizen - until now.
“They’ll be able to vote again, they’ll be able to buy firearms again,” Love said. “In some states, you can’t have public housing or public assistance like welfare if you have a felony. As important as any, they won’t have to check a box that says ‘Yes, they have been convicted of a felony,’ when they apply for jobs.”
President Biden also called on governors to take this step and that’s where Love says a massive reduction in prison population could occur.
“It’s the state level where most prisoners are held and, in the states, most of those are drug convictions,” said Love.
Njuguna says it’s the next step his organization wants to see taken as well by Governor Andy Beshear. He believes it will continue the correct the harm caused by more than a half-century of the war on drugs.
“In the recovery world, we call sometimes doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result insanity,” Njuguna said. “So it’s time to end the insanity.”
President Biden has also asked his administration to review the way that marijuana is scheduled under federal law. Njuguna says this could mean a lot when it comes to decriminalizing the drug at the state level.
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