Attorney General Jeff Sessions really hates weed. He has, in fact, said, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” He is clueless enough to have described cannabis as “only slightly less awful than heroin.” Oh, and as Attorney General, he’s the most powerful law enforcement official in the United States.
That’s why people in the cannabis community are starting to get very nervous that Sessions is re-igniting the Drug War. The Attorney General is pushing back on bipartisan momentum to reduce the number of Americans behind bars.
Sessions last week issued a memo to prosecutors, calling on them to push for the “most serious” charges against people. The reason for this is to trigger mandatory minimum drug sentences.
This reverses the policy of his predecessor, former Atty. Gen. Eric Holder. Holder had told prosecutors to avoid charging nonviolent drug defendants with offenses that would trigger draconian mandatory minimums. Those long sentences, though, seem to be exactly that Sessions wants.
This is a disastrous move that will increase the prison population, exacerbate racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and do nothing to reduce drug use or increase public safety.
Sessions is taking the country back to the 1980s by escalating the failed policies of the drug war. – Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)
Anthony Papa, manager of media relations at the DPA. Papa served 12 years in prison on a mandatory minimum sentence under New York’s harsh Rockefeller drug laws. He says,
The last thing our country needs to do is go back to the ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ mentality that has made the United States the number one incarcerator of the world.
Jeff Sessions’ push for long mandatory minimums will destroy people, families and communities.
According to the DPA, this is just the latest in a series of measures that demonstrate the intent of the Trump Administration to ramp up the Drug War. Sessions has indicated that he will also reverse the Obama-era practice of allowing states to set their own marijuana policies.
Homeland Security head John Kelly is using the War On Drugs to persecute immigrants, pushing to deport individuals for simple marijuana possession.
Jeff Sessions is pushing federal prosecutors to reverse progress and repeat a failed experiment – the War on Drugs – that has devastated the lives and rights of millions of Americans, ripping apart families and communities and setting millions, particularly Black people and other people of color, on a vicious cycle of incarceration. – Udi Ofer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Campaign for Smart Justice
Virgil Grant, president, and co-founder of the cannabis trade organization, Southern California Coalition, says,
This is a direct attack on social justice and equality. The Sessions memo takes a new Jim Crow approach that does not work.
These failed policies will only continue to ruin more lives, cause the illicit marketplace to thrive, and endanger communities.
Cornell William Brooks, CEO and president of the NAACP agrees,
The Attorney General’s directive suggests that this long ugly era of mass incarceration now has eternal life. Contradicting common sense, conscience, and experience of red and blue state governors, this new policy takes us quickly backward.