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US politics

Pardon pot users not turkeys, Mr Biden

President Biden pardoning a turkey at the White House on Friday. Alex Wong/Getty Images

It’s Thanksgiving here in the US, and Joe Biden has given the annual turkey pardon, says Samantha Michaels in Mother Jones. It’s a silly, decades-old ritual in which the President spares two turkeys from the butcher’s knife. Everything went to plan this year, until a New York Post reporter said: “Will you be pardoning any people in addition to turkeys?” Biden laughed. “You need a pardon?” he replied, adding: “No, it’s just turkeys.”

I don’t want to ruin the Thanksgiving spirit, but this is an important point. During his presidential campaign Biden promised to pardon those in prison for marijuana-related offences. “I think we should decriminalise marijuana, period,” he said at a 2019 debate. “And I think everyone – anyone who has a record – should be let out of jail, their records expunged, be completely zeroed out.” After 10 months into office, he has yet to grant a pardon to a single person. This matters because there are nearly 18,000 clemency petitions for Biden to review. Several of those involve people serving life sentences, without parole. Thanksgiving “reminds us to have fun and always be grateful”, Biden told crowds as he pardoned the turkeys. He’s right. If only so many people weren’t stuck behind bars, “unjustly able to do the same”.