Thursday, May 11, 2017

Sessions Wants to Revive the War on Drugs Starting with Mandatory Minimums

Since the beginning of the Trump presidency we’ve been concerned over how the new administration is going to approach the growing legal cannabis industry. By the time Trump took office eight states and the District of Columbia had already legalized the recreational use of cannabis, along with the 28+ states and D.C. that have legalized the herb for medicinal purposes. While there are budget guidelines in place that are supposed to prevent the Department of Justice from going after medical marijuana, it doesn’t seem that it is going to stop them from trying to bring back the war on drugs in full force.

Early in April Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that a Department of Justice task force was being assembled to determine new charging and sentencing policies when it comes to cannabis, among other issues (which new evidence would have us believing includes other drug and gun charges). Now it appears that part of that interest is to reverse a memo that was issued under the previous AG that suggested prosecutors move away from charges that come with minimum mandatory sentencing and enhancements, which are often excessive for the crimes being committed.

A new memo, which has yet to be released, is likely to suggest that prosecutors should instead go back to more severe charges in drug related cases, whether they are considered low-level offenders or not. This means that someone selling a little bit of weed on the side is would get the same charges and mandatory minimum sentencing as someone running a high-profile drug cartel caught dealing large amounts of marijuana. While the previous administrations efforts were being put into reducing the federal incarceration rates it seems that the new administration would rather continue locking up innocent and nonviolent offenders.

“Many advocates think there are too many mandatory minimums, and that federal charging in general is still too harsh, even after the shift in policy under Holder,” Ms. Starr said. “But this isn’t especially surprising given what we know about the attorney general and the president and their view on criminal justice.”

What this will mean for the future of the legal cannabis industry we will have to wait and see – while the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment was renewed by congress it does nothing to protect the recreational industry, only specifically mentioning medical marijuana laws in certain states. Even then, it appears that Trump still thinks he can do whatever he wants when it comes to medical marijuana law – which doesn’t give (me at least) bright hopes for how his administration will treat the adult use industry.

“As a proponent of criminal justice reform, I continue to believe that ending mandatory minimum sentences will actually make it easier to focus on violent crimes which impact our communities,” Paul said last week in a statement to The Post.

For now, all we know for sure is that mandatory minimum sentencing could be making a come back with the Department of Justice – which would effectively reverse a large portion of what the Obama administration had done to try and end the war on drugs and move in the direction of treating drugs like a public health issue (as it should be). Sending people to jail for having, using, or even selling, any amount of any illegal substance is not going to end drug use – which should be evident when looking at how well it worked out in 80s and 90s, and even the early 2000s.

Even worse, opiate addiction, which is at an all time high, was in part greatly caused by the over prescribing of these medications – and only when the pill mills started being dismantled did we start seeing the rise in heroin use. Addicts who get caught up in the legal system end up in jail or prison, not rehab or therapy, which is what they really need. Jail won’t save lives, mandatory minimum sentencing will not save lives – if anything it is a contributing factor in ruining the lives of thousands people who might have gone on to do great things if it weren’t for a felony possession charge holding them back at every turn.

If this is something you don’t agree with then share this article, share any article related to Jeff Sessions and his hopes to revive the War on Drugs – let everyone, especially Congress, know you don’t agree with this and why! Prohibition disproportionately affects minorities, and in almost all cases mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes are extremely excessive (think 15-25 years for growing some pot plants or having more than a few ounces in your home).

Prohibition doesn’t work. The War on Drugs has failed. It’s time to move on and find a new approach, which the Obama Administration had been trying to do. Hopefully this new administration doesn’t make that all for nothing, though that certainly seems to be what they’re aiming for as they continue to try and push us back into outdated and failed policies.

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