Reaction to Attorney General Eric Holder’s Drug Reform Proposals

Today, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder backed proposals to reduce America’s reliance on incarceration. In a speech to the American Bar Association, Holder endorsed Congressional legislation that would scale back mandatory minimum sentences, and sent guidance to U.S. attorneys directing them to refrain from subjecting people accused of low-level drug offenses to the most severe sentences.

The following is a statement from Marijuana Majority Chairman Tom Angell:

“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.”

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