Monday, 10 December, 2018

Appalachia's approach to drugs at odds with AG policy

Ellis Copeland | 16 May, 2017, 11:36

Virtually every person who faces federal drug charges can now expect to receive a stiff mandatory-minimum sentence under a new policy announced late Thursday by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

This isn't to say that there's no risk in investing in cannabis companies, but the risk investors face is likely more centered on the operations of the company being invested in, not from regulation.

Obama changed the policy to reduce the number of people behind stuck behind bars for long periods of time for committing low level drug crimes.

The Washington Post reported that Sessions' directive essentially reverses an August 2013 charging and sentencing memo issued by former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. under President Barack Obama.

"It looks like we're going to fill the prisons back up after finally getting the federal prison population down", said Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. These charges carry much harsher penalties. Many of them are serving mandatory minimum sentences that were created during the course of America's war on drugs.

Further, we must not overlook the relationship between the Attorney General, this Administration and the private prison industry. It has always been expected from Sessions, a former federal prosecutor who cut his teeth during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic and who has promised to make combating violence and drugs the Justice Department's top priority.

The reversal gives prosecutors better tools to go after drug traffickers and gangs, said Lawrence Leiser, head of the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys.

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The Sessions memo marks the first significant criminal justice effort by the Trump administration to bring back the toughest practices of the drug war, which had fallen out of favor in recent years with a bipartisan movement to undo the damaging effects of mass incarceration. Attorney General Sessions' directive to federal prosecutors raises suspicion of his desire to fill these facilities by any means necessary - an incentive that, in the past, incarcerated an entire generation in a disparate way.

The Harvard Journal on Legislation critiqued the Holder memo as an "expansion of executive", essentially scrutinizing the method used to impose the policy (i.e. without the help of Congress).

"We know drugs and crime go hand in hand", Sessions said.

"There's a long history of these memos saying both that prosecutors should charge the most serious, readily provable offense, but also that prosecutors should exercise some discretion", said David Alan Sklansky, a law professor at Stanford University who specializes in criminal justice. Sessions however, is working to punish and imprison offenders to the fullest extent possible and working to include minimum mandatory sentences.

Johnson and Harvey said federal prosecutors should be focused on large-scale drug trafficking organizations and cartels, and they said they see signs that the Justice Department under Sessions would aggressively pursue those cases.

Reactions from criminal-justice reform circles have been unanimous, from lawmakers and law enforcement leaders to advocacy groups and criminologists. "Instead we should treat our nation's drug epidemic as a health crisis and less as a lock 'em up and throw away the key problem", he said.

Sessions said that under the Trump Administration, the Department of Justice (DOJ) would stand behind law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

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