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FirstFT: Mass US pardon for ‘simple possession’ of marijuana


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Joe Biden has issued a mass pardon for all people with convictions for “simple possession” of marijuana under federal law, in a major push for drug reform just one month before crucial midterm elections.

The US president said he would issue an executive order pardoning “thousands of people who have prior federal convictions for marijuana possession”.

He urged governors to do the same for state offences, saying convictions had led to people unfairly being denied employment, housing and educational opportunities.

Biden also said he was asking the US Department of Health and Human Services and Merrick Garland, attorney-general, to review how marijuana is classified under federal law. Marijuana is a schedule-1 drug, in the same category as heroin.

The announcement came just one month before the midterm elections that will serve as a referendum on Biden’s presidency and determine whether Democrats retain control of Congress.

While the president stopped short of fully decriminalising marijuana — a move that would require the support of Congress — yesterday’s move was cheered by progressive lawmakers in the president’s party who have long said strict drug laws have unfairly targeted communities of colour.

Do you agree with Joe Biden’s decision to pardon people for “simple” marijuana possession? Should marijuana be reclassified under federal law? Shares in marijuana companies rallied on the news. Are you an investor in the industry? Email your thoughts to firstft@ft.com or hit reply on this email.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Americas. Here is the rest of today’s news — Gordon

1. Joe Biden warns Vladimir Putin ‘not joking’ about nuclear threat The US president warned the risk of nuclear “Armageddon” was at its highest since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, at a fundraiser in New York last night. Joe Biden said Vladimir Putin, who turns 70 today, was “not joking” about the “potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is, you might say, significantly underperforming”.

2. Samsung hit by first profit fall in three years The world’s largest memory chipmaker and smartphone producer blamed a slump in operating profits on the slowing demand for electronic devices. Yesterday, US chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices cut its third-quarter revenue estimate by $1bn from its August forecast. The AMD warning followed recent downbeat statements from rivals Micron Technologies and Japan’s Kioxia Holdings.

3. London’s most expensive home ‘owned by Evergrande founder’ The 45-room mansion overlooking Hyde Park is owned by Hui Ka Yan, the head of the embattled Chinese property group and formerly China’s richest man, according to people familiar with the secretive £210mn sale.

4. Gotham and Portsea founders join forces in short-selling fund Two of the biggest names in short selling are joining forces to launch a new hedge fund, betting that a downturn in markets will help them replicate successful wagers against companies such as Wirecard and Steinhoff.

5. ‘Nothing off table’ says US in response to Opec+ oil cuts The White House, angered by Opec+’s decision to cut production by 2mn barrels per day, said no action was “off the table” as it considered its response to the biggest production cut by the oil producing cartel and its allies since 2020. Thank you to all the readers who shared their views on this topic yesterday. A selection are included at the end of this newsletter.

How closely did you follow the news this week? Take our quiz to find out.

The days ahead

US employment data The robust pace of US jobs growth is expected to have cooled in September, according to figures due to be released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics later today. The unemployment rate is set to remain steady at 3.7 per cent, just above its pre-coronavirus pandemic lows.

Monetary policy New York Fed president John Williams is set to speak about regional and national economies, as well as monetary policy, at an event at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Yesterday, two top officials at the Fed pushed back on speculation that the US central bank would soon pause its aggressive monetary tightening campaign.

Latin America economic data Inflation in Mexico is expected to have ticked up in September. The headline price index is forecast to have increased 0.67 per cent during the month, albeit a slight slowdown from the 0.7 per cent rise in August. That is expected to take the annual pace of inflation to 8.75 per cent in September. Elsewhere, retail sales in Brazil are expected to have shrunk 0.2 per cent in August. That is an improvement from the 0.8 per cent drop in July, and should accompany an improvement in the annual rate of sales growth to zero in August from a drop of 5.2 per cent the previous month.

Mining The first new US cobalt mine in decades will officially open today. The mine, which is owned by Australia’s Jervois Global, is located in Idaho’s Salmon River Mountains and is 8,000ft above sea level. A critical component of the lithium-ion batteries that power electric cars and trucks, demand for cobalt from carmakers is threatening to outstrip supply as the automotive industry electrifies.

What else we’re reading

‘Monster’ Hurricane Ian brings devastation to Florida’s booming south-west According to federal data, Fort Myers and neighbouring Cape Coral ranked as the nation’s hottest housing market this year. That is before Hurricane Ian broke the magical spell. This week, reporter Joshua Chaffin visited the area which is normally a dwelling place for sunseekers and retirees.

An aerial view of the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Ian in Fort Meyers Beach
An aerial view of the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Ian in Fort Meyers Beach © Win McNamee/Getty Images

A timeline of Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover — in tweets There has never been a corporate takeover saga quite like it: where the acquisition target is also the deal’s battleground. Our reporters have constructed a tweet-by-tweet timeline of how the battle for the internet’s public square blew up.

Surprise São Paulo victory revitalises Bolsonaro’s re-election bid The incumbent president’s poll-defying performance in Brazil’s wealthiest and most populous state of São Paulo has given him a fighting chance of retaining the presidency — and complicated the path to victory for rival Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Time for investors to learn a new game If anything is clear from recent turmoil in the UK government bond market and gyrations in sterling, the times are seriously out of joint. What can we do about it? Buy property, consider green investments and delay retirement, John Plender writes.

Where climate change isn’t global: auditing Auditors have highlighted climate change as a challenging issue in vetting some companies’ accounts — but not consistently. It could be that auditors, given a choice, are avoiding a hot-button issue while they still can, writes Helen Thomas.

Iranian students are shaping anti-regime protests For the first time in years, Iran’s universities have re-emerged as the centre of outrage over the death in custody of a woman arrested for allegedly violating the Islamic dress code. Despite crackdowns, the protests have continued to spread.

Readers respond

The FT’s editorial board said the decision by Opec+ to cut oil production by 2mn barrels per day is ill judged and “is part of a broader struggle for control of the global oil market”. Readers also shared their views and here are some extracts from the messages we received.

The Biden administration needs to put the American energy industry back at the forefront of the American economy. [He] needs to scrap this escapade into socialism, and the evisceration of American energy immediately, returning clean oil and gas-based energy, supplying the free western world’s democracies, and [move] away from the pariahs and despots of the east and southern hemisphere. John Garrison, Lexington, South Carolina

The US Democratic regime has gone to great lengths to discourage domestic oil and gas production, as has the state of California. The result is domestic producers are now focused on returns to stakeholders rather than increasing production. The current regime is hypocritical in trying to form a close tie to the most dangerous exporter of terrorism ever known to mankind (Iran) simply to access more oil that could be coming instead from domestic suppliers. Joel Dryer, Chicago

Thanks for all the messages I received on this topic and, please, keep them coming. This is obviously a topic readers have strong views about. I will be off next week but my colleague Abby Wallace will be writing FirstFT. Have a good weekend — Gordon.

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