LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson has responded to the proposal for marijuana decriminalization made Thursday afternoon by Pres. Joe Biden.
In his announcement, Biden stated he would pardon everyone who had been federally convicted of simple possession of marijuana and also urged governors to take similar action.
In addition, Biden said he was asking the Secretary of Health and Human Services “expeditiously” review marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I drug.
In his response to Biden’s announcement, Hutchinson opposed any loosening of legal restrictions on marijuana, calling the president’s proposal a “surrender.”
Hutchinson said his preference is for a case-by-case review for possible pardons, noting he had issued hundreds of pardons as governor for drug offense convictions.
The governor stated that previous administrations had not undertaken the matter of reclassifying and decriminalizing marijuana.
He also claimed Biden’s proposal and timing were part of election-year politics. Biden’s announcement came one month before the mid-term elections.
“The President, in his announced policy on marijuana, has waived the flag of surrender in the fight to save lives from drug abuse and has adopted all the talking points of the drug legalizers. The Department of Justice should not issue blanket pardons but each case should be looked at individually. As Governor I have issued hundreds of pardons to those who have been convicted of drug offenses. But in this time of rising crime, there should be a clear record of law-abiding conduct before pardons are issued.”
“In terms of rescheduling marijuana, the president is ignoring the science that is behind the different categories of drugs. While his proposal sounds good, this is a step that has not been taken by the Obama Administration or the Trump Administration. Biden is simply playing election-year politics and sacrificing our national interest to win votes.“
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, statement, Oct. 6, 2022
Hutchinson has previously come out against a proposed Arkansas constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would allow adult use of marijuana. He also had a role in the war against drugs on the federal level after being appointed administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration by Pres. George W. Bush in 2001, serving for two years.
Marijuana in the United States was restricted in the United States beginning in 1906 and was criminalized in 1937.