Although presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is holding back on support for the legalization of cannabis, this week he suggested the use of federal aid in order to help states modernize their criminal record data systems and expunge marijuana convictions.
Speaking about systemic racism, the former vice president noted how a low-level marijuana conviction can often impact one’s ability to achieve financial security later in life, particularly when it comes to people of color.
“Getting caught for smoking marijuana when you’re young surely shouldn’t deny you, the rest of your life, being able to have a good-paying job or a career or a loan or an ability to rent an apartment. Right now, that criminal record is the weight that holds back too many people of color, and many whites as well,” Biden said.
However, the high cost of getting those records expunged presents itself a significant challenge. Still, Biden urged states to recognize the cost of preventing people with non-violent criminal records from re-entering and contributing to society.
Biden went on to explain that even when states are willing to expunge a person’s record, “the record keeping-systems are so outdated, they don’t know how to do it.”
With this in mind, the presidential candidate poised to take on Donald Trump in November’s election pledged to introduce an automated expungement process with the support of federal money.
“Under my plan, if a state decides it wants to implement an automated system for the sealing and expunging of certain nonviolent criminal records, if a state chooses to do that, the federal government will help put together the process and allow them the money to be able to know how to organize to do that. That’s what racial equity in our economy looks like,” he said, as reported by Marijuana Moment.
As the outlet points out, Biden himself has sponsored some harsh anti-drug laws while he represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate, including the controversial Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The bill is considered to be one of the main factors that contributed to the mass incarceration of the 1990s.
A number of U.S. states have passed measures to expunge the records of low-level marijuana offenders recently, including New York and Illinois – the last state to have allowed recreational weed sales.
Last month, lawmakers in Colorado passed legislation that grants the governor the ability to mass-pardon individuals with minor marijuana possession convictions.