August 13, 2013

Eric Holder’s Drug Policy Reform Rhetoric Needs To Be Backed By Action

August 13, 2013
Eric Holder drug policy reform marijuana

Eric Holder drug policy reform marijuanaEric Holder gave a speech yesterday in which he talked about reforming drug policy to reduce sentences for offenders. It brought back memories for me from when Eric Holder said that he would respect state medical marijuana laws. We now know that the same time that he sent a memo to Department of Justice employees saying to respect state marijuana laws, his agency was launching investigations against harmless medical marijuana growers/providers in Montana, in addition to who knows how many other areas. So forgive me if I don’t believe Eric Holder based off of what he said yesterday. Fool me once Mr. Holder, shame on you. But fool me twice….you know the saying. Does anyone believe Eric Holder and the feds at this point? I personally don’t believe any of the rhetoric – only actions will convince me at this point. Below is a statement from Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority in reaction to yesterday’s press conference by Eric Holder:

“The attorney general’s remarks represent a good first step toward scaling back the failed ‘war on drugs.’ These proposals will allow some people charged with drug offenses to have opportunities to put their lives back together sooner and will save taxpayers some money that is now being wasted putting human beings in cages for no good reason whatsoever. However, the criminal justice system should not just have less of a role in the effort to address the medical problem of drug abuse, it should have no role.

“The real value of these proposals will be in the implementation, which drug policy reform advocates have good reason to be wary about. For example, despite a 2009 Justice Department memo urging U.S. attorneys not to go after marijuana businesses that are legal under state law, more state-legal medical marijuana providers were shuttered by federal actions during the first term of the Obama administration than were closed during George W. Bush’s two terms. And, we’re still waiting for the administration to announce its response to the marijuana legalization laws in Colorado and Washington, a policy that the attorney general has been saying is coming ‘relatively soon’ since December. If the administration is serious about using law enforcement resources in a smarter way, it should be a no-brainer to strongly direct federal prosecutors to respect the majority of voters by allowing these groundbreaking state laws to be implemented without interference.

“Clearly, drug policy reformers have a lot of work ahead of us to make sure that the administration’s deeds match its words, but today’s remarks by the attorney general give us a lot to work with.”

Below is a press release from the ABA where Eric Holder made his comments, courtesy of our friends at eNews Park Forest:

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced a major shift in Department of Justice policy to address overcrowding in the federal prison system during remarks at the American Bar Association 2013 Annual Meeting. The ABA has previously urged adoption of many of the changes announced today.

“Too many Americans go to too many prisons for too long for no good law enforcement reason,” Holder said.

The steps announced by Holder will result in greater reliance on state courts and local communities in handling low-level, nonviolent drug crimes and will increase use of drug-treatment programs in the federal system. Holder also announced expansion of the “compassionate release” program for early release of elderly prisoners who have served a substantial majority of their federal sentence.

“We have learned a lot since the widespread enactment of draconian, one-size-fits-all mandatory minimum sentencing laws in the 1980s. A growing number of states have enacted ‘smart’ sentencing and corrections laws that place greater reliance on community-based resources, including drug courts, drug treatment, halfway houses and home confinement for low-level drug offenders. These changes have resulted in significant savings to taxpayers while fully protecting public safety,” ABA President Laurel G. Bellows said.

“The level of incarceration and the fiscal and human costs under current federal policies are unsustainable. Already, the growth in the budget for the Federal Bureau of Prisons is crowding out and resulting in the elimination of vital law enforcement programs. These changes outlined by Attorney General Holder today are welcome and much-needed steps toward bringing the federal system into line with smart, evidence-based policy that will better serve taxpayers and public safety.”

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. To review our privacy statement, click here. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews.


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