The Slow Winding Down Of The Drug War
When the Administration announced an end to medical marijuana raids by the DEA, they abruptly took back the statement a few hours later. There was a bit of confusion about the new policy. Eric Holder put an end to that.
Attorney General Eric Holder signaled a change on medical marijuana policy Wednesday, saying federal agents will target marijuana distributors only when they violate both federal and state law.
That would be a departure from the policy of the Bush administration, which targeted medical marijuana dispensaries in California even if they complied with that state's law.
"The policy is to go after those people who violate both federal and state law," Holder said in a question-and-answer session with reporters at the Justice Department.
Good. There is little justification to waste Justice Department resources harassing Californians and Americans in 12 other states engaging in perfectly legal activity. Holder must follow the law but he also has discretion in setting priorities, and it's good to see him recognize that arresting local businessmen and their patients makes no sense. There remain questions about outstanding medical marijuana federal court cases with over two dozen dispensaries, and hopefully the solution will be to drop the charges.
In a related story, Maxine Waters wants to end mandatory minimum sentencing for federal drug offenses, and the bill has 15 co-sponsors. The Bureau of Prisons budget has increased 25-fold since mandatory minimums were introduced. Small drug cases belong in state courts, where offenders could be given treatment instead of jail. Furthermore, these kind of drug cases disproportionately impact minority communities.
H.R. 1466, the Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009, seeks to repeal mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders and to give courts the ability to determine sentences based on all the facts, not just drug weight. It would also refocus federal resources on major drug traffickers instead of low-level offenders. There is currently no companion bill in the Senate.
Sen. Boxer, your office phone is ringing.