In recent talks with Attorney General Eric Holder, DEA Chief Michele Leonhart was encouraged to tone down the Drug War propaganda she has been advancing since the Obama administration did not sue the state of Colorado for legalizing marijuana. Since then, she has taken several public stands against the administration’s rhetoric on marijuana legalization and, more recently, lessening the punishment of people who commit federal drug crimes.
According to Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly and Ryan Grim, Leonhart was “called in” by Holder for a “one [on] one chat about her recent insubordination.” As a 34-year bureaucrat of the DEA, Leonhart is having a hard time shifting her tone away from the DEA’s aggressive stance against illegal drugs.
Since the talks, Leonhart has said she “supports the Attorney General’s sentencing reform initiative to ensure those sentences are imposed appropriately” through legislation like the Smarter Sentencing Act. This type of legislation would save taxpayers billions of dollars and keep thousands of people out of jail for certain types of nonviolent crimes, like marijuana use, by eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing.
Michele Leonhart’s alignment with the Obama administration’s stance on drug sentencing and marijuana policy creates cautious optimism for change in the prosecution of unnecessary federal arrests.
In August, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the DOJ would avoid prosecuting low-level, non-violent drug offenders with harsh charges that carry mandatory minimums.
Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem, rather than alleviate it.
Now, the DOJ has taken another stepand announced that the new policy will also apply to persons who have been charged but not yet tried and persons who have been tried but not yet sentenced. The attorney general instructed his prosecutors to re-file charges in these cases so that low-level offenders will not be subjected to disproportionate sentences.
I am pleased to announce today that the department has issued new guidance to apply our updated charging policy not only to new matters, but also to pending cases where the defendant was charged before the policy was issued but is still awaiting adjudication of guilt.
This announcement comes in the wake of a statement by the DOJ last month that the federal government would allow states to continue with their plans to regulate and tax marijuana without interruption, so long as they meet certain criteria.
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced Monday that the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “Conflicts Between State and Federal Marijuana Laws.” Sen. Leahy has reportedly invited U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole to speak to the committee.
The hearing is scheduled for September 10 at 10 a.m. ET in Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building.
Sen. Leahy has said he believes state laws making marijuana legal for adult or medical use “should be respected.”
MPP’s director of government relations Dan Riffle had this to say:
“Two states have made marijuana legal for adult use and are establishing regulated systems of production and distribution. Twenty states plus our nation’s capital have made it legal for medical use. By failing to recognize the decisions of voters and legislators in those states, current federal law is undermining their ability to implement and enforce those laws.
“Marijuana prohibition’s days are numbered, and everyone in Washington knows that. It’s time for Congress to stop ignoring the issue and develop a policy that allows states to adopt the most efficient and effective marijuana laws possible. We need to put the ‘reefer madness’ policies of the 1930s behind us and adopt an evidence-based approach for the 21st century.”
This could be a really big deal. We’ll keep you posted.
Colorado’s staunchly anti-marijuana attorney general, John Suthers, has declared that a rule created by the legislature to treat marijuana-themed publications like pornography is unconstitutional and said the state will not defend it in court. His determination came after state marijuana regulators concluded that it was not constitutional and should not be enforced.
The magazine requirement was part of a larger set of laws enacted to state how the newly legal drug should be grown and sold. The behind-the-counter restriction was adopted after parents testified that their children should be protected from exposure to magazines touting the drug, which remains illegal under federal law.
The resulting law left Colorado in an unusual position — one of only two states to allow recreational use of the drug, while also the only state to restrict the display of publications about marijuana. The state’s decision to reject the magazine restriction was applauded by marijuana legalization activists.
“The idea that stores can prominently display magazines touting the joys of drinking wine and smoking cigars, yet banish those that discuss a far safer substance to behind the counter, is absolutely absurd,” wrote Mason Tvert, who campaigned for Colorado’s pot law and now is spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project.