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How Jeff Sessions is wrong about drug sentencing

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Radley Balko counts the ways in the Washington Post:

So Attorney General Jeff Sessions took to the pages of The Washington Post to write an op-ed last weekend. Sessions is rescinding an Obama administration policy that instructed federal prosecutors to avoid seeking mandatory minimums in some drug cases.

In Sessions’s defense, he did get one thing right, although he seemed to utterly miss the significance of it. And then he got a lot of things wrong. So many, in fact, that only a line-by-line review will do the whole thing justice.

So let’s get to it. Sessions begins:

Drug trafficking is an inherently violent business. If you want to collect a drug debt, you can’t, and don’t, file a lawsuit in court. You collect it by the barrel of a gun.

So this is the thing Sessions got right. Drug trafficking is violent. It is violent because courts and other traditional nonviolent means of settling disputes aren’t available to anyone involved. And it isn’t just debts. Where purveyors of legal products compete for customers by offering a better product, a cheaper product or better service, drug traffickers win customers, or “turf,” by killing one another. This has always been true — of drugs, and of every other product sold on the black market.

It’s encouraging that Sessions realizes this. What’s puzzling is how Sessions can (a) acknowledge that black markets cause violence, (b) claim to worry about said violence, and yet (c) work behind the scenes to expand black markets. Sessions not only opposes legalizing drugs, but he also wants to return states that have already legalized recreational marijuana — and who seem to be doing just fine — to the days when marijuana was available only on the black market. Or to put it as Sessions does: If pot retailers in Colorado, Washington and the other legalization states need to collect on a debt today, they do what any other retailer does. They use the legal system. If Sessions had his way, pot dealers in these states would to back to collecting debts “by the barrel of a gun.”

Why does Jeff Sessions want people in Washington, Colorado, and the other states that have legalized marijuana to experience increased violence — violence that he himself acknowledges would be inevitable if he were to get his way? Is it really that important to make it more difficult for people to get high? What for Sessions would be an appropriate “dead bodies”-to-“euphorias prevented” ratio?

For the approximately 52,000 Americans who died of a drug overdose in 2015, drug trafficking was a deadly business.

About 18,000 of those deaths involved prescription opioids, which are legally available. About 8,000 involved benzodiazepines, which are also available legally. Both of those types of drugs are made by pharmaceutical companies, prescribed by doctors and sold by pharmacies. Does Sessions believe those are all inherently violent industries? The Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related deaths. Does Sessions believe that Anheuser-Busch, Diageo and E & J Gallo run “deadly businesses”? What about the 480,000 people who die each year from smoking? Is tobacco a “deadly business”?

Moreover, there’s solid and mounting evidence that marijuana may be an effective substitute for opioids when it comes to treating pain. States that have legalized marijuana have seen a drop in hospitalizations for opioid addiction and overdose, suggesting that if it’s easily available, people prefer to treat pain with marijuana rather than with opioids. Which means that under Sessions’s preferred policy of pot prohibition, we’d almost certainly see much higher numbers of opioid addiction and overdose deaths.

Yet in 2013, subject to limited exceptions, the Justice Department ordered federal prosecutors not to include in charging documents the amount of drugs being dealt when the actual amount was large enough to trigger a mandatory minimum sentence. Prosecutors were required to leave out objective facts in order to achieve sentences lighter than required by law.

This isn’t an accurate characterization of the memo issued by former attorney general Eric Holder. The memo states only that in cases in which a defendant was in possession of enough drugs to trigger a mandatory minimum federal sentence, federal prosecutors should decline to charge the crime that would trigger that sentence if the defendant meets a number of criteria, including not having committed an act of violence in association with the crime, not being the leader or organizer of a trafficking organization, not having ties to cartels or major drug traffickers, and not having a significant criminal history.

I suppose in some sense the memo required prosecutors to “leave out” facts in that it asked them to charge less than what federal law permits. But prosecutors have always had the discretion to bring lighter chargers than what they could conceivably bring. Moreover, when you considerthe unfair, irrational way in which federal authorities measure drug quantities for the purpose of charging and sentencing, the Holder policy at best made the playing field slightly more level.

This was billed as an effort to curb mass incarceration of low-level offenders, but in reality it covered offenders apprehended with large quantities of dangerous drugs. The result was that federal drug prosecutions went down dramatically — from 2011 to 2016, federal prosecutions fell by 23 percent. Meanwhile, the average sentence length for a convicted federal drug offender decreased 18 percent from 2009 to 2016.

There are any number of reasons the number of federal drug prosecutions might drop. But note the range of years Sessions chooses here. The Holder memo was in 2013. Why go back to 2011? Because that’s when federal drug prosecutions peaked. But there was a big drop between 2011 and 2012, which wouldn’t have been affected by the Holder memo at all. There’s also a big drop between 2013 and 2014. You might argue the Holder memo played a role there, but the memo wasn’t issued until August of 2013. And between 2014 and 2016, the number of prosecutions dropped, but only slightly. I don’t see a handy table for average sentence length by year, but I’ll guess that Sessions chose 2009 as his baseline for that statistic.

Of course, if the Holder memo did reduce drug sentences for nonviolent offenders, good. That’s exactly what it was supposed to do. The evidence for this isn’t overwhelming, but the Sentencing Commission did report in March of 2016 that federal prosecutors were focusing less on low-level offenders, and more on serious and violent offenders. One would think that this is a positive trend, too.

For Sessions to show that this was somehow detrimental to public safety, he needs to show a link between lenient sentences and crime. And here his argument falls to pieces.

Before that policy change, . . .

Continue reading.

Read the whole thing. There’s a lot more.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2017 at 7:43 pm

Our first-ever drug epidemic with corporate backing and big marketing budgets

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Kevin Drum has some sobering charts. If Jeff Sessions truly does fire up the War on Drugs, our prisons are going to be overflowing—but there are big bucks to be made in building and running prisons as government contractors (i.e., private corporations). So I imagine the new War on Drugs will have strong corporate backing.

Do read Drum’s post.

And Drum points out “Donald Trump has no foreign policy” (except to be played for a sucker).

And do read, “Donald Trump, Classy as Always.”

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2017 at 6:02 pm

Who Holds the DEA Accountable When Its Missions Cost Lives?

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Ginger Thompson reports in ProPublica:

N EARLY 2011, the Drug Enforcement Administration obtained a rare and highly valuable piece of intelligence about the leaders of the Mexico-based Zetas cartel, one of the most powerful, and impenetrable, drug organizations in the world.

An agent in Dallas had persuaded the cartel’s leading cocaine distributor in East Texas to hand over trackable cellphone identification numbers for the group’s most wanted kingpins, in particular Miguel and Omar Treviño, a murderous pair of brothers whose viciousness had earned them top spots among the DEA’s most-wanted.

It was an intelligence coup, the kind of information that comes along once in a very lucky career. With those numbers, authorities could track the brothers’ movements and ultimately capture them. But the DEA made a decision with fatal consequences. Against the wishes of the lead agent on the case — whose informant specifically warned of the potential for bloodshed — the DEA told a Mexican federal police unit with a long history of leaking to traffickers that it had the information.

Within days, the Zetas were, in turn, told that the DEA was onto their leaders. The Treviño brothers guessed immediately which of the cells in their organization had betrayed them and began hunting for the snitches. When the suspected traitors couldn’t be found, the traffickers went after anyone connected to them.

Dozens, possibly hundreds, of people were killed and kidnapped in and around Allende, a quiet ranching town in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, about 40 minutes from the U.S. border. Zetas gunmen grabbed a 15-year-old high school football player, who was hanging out with friends whose parents ran a health club where one of the suspected snitches lifted weights. They took an 81-year-old woman, as well as her 6-month-old great-grandson. One family lost nearly 20 members.

Black clouds spewed from a local ranch where the cartel turned one building into a makeshift crematorium to burn the bodies of those they had killed.

For years, Mexican authorities did next to nothing to investigate the massacre. Meanwhile people in Allende, understandably distrustful of the authorities sworn to protect them, kept their mouths shut.

Tragically, that outcome has become all too familiar in Mexico, where impunity is a national scourge. Homegrown corruption, greed and fear have bred an epidemic of virtually unchallenged violence. What makes this case different is that the DEA lit the fuse that triggered the slaughter, then stood mutely by — as if it had played no role. DEA officials knew almost immediately that innocent lives had been lost as a result of sharing the intelligence with Mexico. The agency’s response then — and in the years since — nothing.

It didn’t demand answers from its Mexican counterparts, or suspend cooperation with the Mexican police until it could determine how the information was leaked. It didn’t conduct an internal investigation into the decision to share the intelligence or reassess its own rules for giving sensitive information to Mexico. It didn’t report the violence to superiors at the Justice Department or to overseers on Capitol Hill.

And, perhaps underscoring the perception that the lives destroyed were in some way acceptable collateral damage in the war on drugs, it didn’t offer to provide any assistance to those victimized by the leak or resources to help identify and arrest the perpetrators.

I’ve spent most of the last year investigating and documenting the attack on Allende, recording detailed, often gut-wrenching, accounts from those who lived through it and those whose actions helped cause it for ProPublica and National Geographic. Dozens of people in Allende agreed to speak to me on the record, many of them talking publicly for the first time and at great personal risk. Even the former Zetas-turned-informants spoke at length about their roles and their devastating consequences. The assistant U.S. attorney on the case described himself as “devastated.” And eventually, the DEA agent who led the investigation discussed, at times emotionally, his part in the tragedy.

But when presented with this array of voices and evidence, DEA officials refused to explain what, if anything, the agency had done to respond to the massacre. Spokesman Russ Baer would only say that the agency placed blame squarely on the Treviño brothers: “They were killing people before that happened, and they killed people after the numbers were passed.” He told me I needed to be clear on one thing: “This is not a story where the DEA has blood on its hands.”

That’s technically true, and sadly seems by design. Because of the way Mexico’s drug war is fought, the United States plays a leading role — providing training, equipment and intelligence to security forces with reputations for collaborating with traffickers — without sharing responsibility for the fallout.

Some Mexican counternarcotics units or programs — including the one implicated in the Allende massacre — wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the United States. American taxpayers have pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into Mexico’s counternarcotics programs over the years. But other than vague lists of kingpins who have been arrested and the occasional made-for-TV photo op of seized drugs, . . .

Continue reading.

The War on Drugs has been an utter failure and a destructive force, corrupting police and governments, killing thousands of innocents, destroying any peaceful way of life in entire regions, causing denial and ignorance in bureaucrats whose fiefdoms are funded by the War on Drugs, and not doing anything to reduce drug use. Well, perhaps creating the opportunity for legal purveyors of pharmaceutical drugs to get more into the addiction business through opioids, which seems very much like a deliberate business decision: “See how much money you can make? Well, here’s the beauty part: we’ll do it legally. We’ll be rich!”

And read the rest of the article. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 June 2017 at 2:20 pm

Effects of the War on Drugs: How the U.S. triggered a massacre in Mexico

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Ginger Thompson reports in ProPublica:

We have testimony from people who say they participated in the crime. They described some 50 trucks arriving in Allende, carrying people connected to the cartel. They broke into houses, they looted them and burned them. Afterward, they kidnapped the people who lived in those houses and took them to a ranch just outside of Allende.

First they killed them. They put them inside a storage shed filled with hay. They doused them with fuel and lit them on fire, feeding the flames for hours and hours.

José Juan MoralesInvestigative director for the disappeared in the Coahuila State Prosecutor’s Office

THERE’S NO MISSING the signs that something unspeakable happened in Allende, a quiet ranching town of about 23,000, just a 40-minute drive from Eagle Pass, Texas. Entire blocks of some of the town’s busiest streets lie in ruins. Once garish mansions are now crumbling shells, with gaping holes in the walls, charred ceilings, cracked marble countertops and toppled columns. Strewn among the rubble are tattered, mud-covered remnants of lives torn apart: shoes, wedding invitations, medications, television sets, toys.

In March 2011 gunmen from the Zetas cartel, one of the most violent drug trafficking organizations in the world, swept through Allende and nearby towns like a flash flood, demolishing homes and businesses and kidnapping and killing dozens, possibly hundreds, of men, women and children.

The destruction and disappearances went on in fits and starts for weeks. Only a few of the victims’ relatives — mostly those who didn’t live in Allende or had fled — dared to seek help. “I would like to make clear that Allende looks like a war zone,” reads one missing person report. “Most people who I questioned about my relatives responded that I shouldn’t go on looking for them because outsiders were not wanted, and were disappeared.”

But unlike most places in Mexico that have been ravaged by the drug war, what happened in Allende didn’t have its origins in Mexico. It began in the United States, when the Drug Enforcement Administration scored an unexpected coup. An agent persuaded a high-level Zetas operative to hand over the trackable cellphone identification numbers for two of the cartel’s most wanted kingpins, Miguel Ángel Treviño and his ​brother Omar.

Then the DEA took a gamble. It shared the intelligence with a Mexican federal police unit that has long had problems with leaks — even though its members had been trained and vetted by the DEA. Almost immediately, the Treviños learned they’d been betrayed. The brothers set out to exact vengeance against the presumed snitches, their families and anyone remotely connected to them.

Their savagery in Allende was particularly surprising because the Treviños not only did business there — moving tens of millions of dollars in drugs and guns through the area each month — they’d also made it their home.

For years after the massacre, Mexican authorities made only desultory efforts to investigate. They erected a monument in Allende to honor the victims without fully determining their fates or punishing those responsible. American authorities eventually helped Mexico capture the Treviños but never acknowledged the devastating cost. In Allende, people suffered mostly in silence, too afraid to talk publicly.

A year ago ProPublica and National Geographic set out to piece together what happened in this town in the state of Coahuila — to let those who bore the brunt of the attack, and those who played roles in triggering it, tell the story in their own words. They did so often at great personal risk. Voices like these have rarely been heard during the drug war: Local officials who abandoned their posts; families preyed upon by both the cartel and their own neighbors; cartel operatives who cooperated with the DEA and saw their friends and families slaughtered; the U.S. prosecutor who oversaw the case; and the DEA agent who led the investigation and who, like most people in this story, has family ties on both sides of the border.

When pressed about his role, the agent, Richard Martinez slumped in his chair, his eyes welling with tears. “How did I feel about the information being compromised? I’d rather not say, to be honest with you. I’d kind of like to leave it at that. I’d rather not say.”

S SUNDOWN APPROACHED on Friday, March 18, 2011, gunmen from the Zetas cartel began pouring into Allende.

Guadalupe GarcíaRetired government worker
We were eating at Los Compadres, and two guys came in. We could tell they weren’t from here. They looked different. They were kids — 18 to 20 years old. They ordered 50 hamburgers to go. That’s when we figured something was going on, and we decided we’d better get home.

Martín MárquezHot dog vendor
Things began happening in the evening. Armed men began arriving. They were going house to house, looking for the people who had done them wrong. At 11 at night there was no traffic on the streets. There was no movement of any kind.

Etelvina RodríguezMiddle school teacher and wife of victim Everardo Elizondo
My husband, Everardo, usually came home between 7 and 7:30 at night. I was waiting for him. Time passed — 7, 7:30, 8, 9. I began calling him. The phone was not in service. I thought maybe he was at his mother’s house and his battery had died. I called his mother. She told me that she hadn’t seen him and that maybe he was out with friends. But that didn’t make sense to me. He would have called. So I went out looking for him.

The atmosphere felt tense. It was nine at night, which was not very late, not on a Friday. The town was completely deserted.

A few miles outside of town, the gunmen descended on several neighboring ranches along a dimly lit two-lane highway. The properties belonged to one of Allende’s oldest clans, the Garzas. The family mostly raised livestock and did odd contracting jobs, including coal mining. But according to family members, some of them also worked for the cartel.

Now those connections were proving deadly. Among those the Zetas suspected of being a snitch — wrongly it turns out — was José Luis Garza, Jr., a relatively low-level cartel operative, whose father, Luis, owned one of the ranches. It was payday, and several workers had gone to the ranch to pick up their money. When the gunmen showed up, they rounded up everyone up they could find and took them hostage. After nightfall, flames began rising from one of the ranch’s large cinder-block storage sheds. The Zetas had begun burning the bodies of some of those they’d killed. . .

Continue reading. There’s lots more.

The War on Drugs, brought to you by Richard Nixon, perpetuated ever since, and Trump and Jeff Sessions plan to dial it up to 11. Success is not the issue (obviously). I think it’s about being powerful—”We can do what we want”—plus there’s a lot of money sloshing around. Plus taking another tack would implicitly acknowledge failure—the failure is obvious, but it’s currently the elephant in the room that many try not to notice and over which the DEA is frantically pulling a sheet to hide it.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2017 at 12:10 pm

Can you spot the “potential long-term upward tick in violent crime” that Jeff Sessions sees?

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Kevin Drum posts a helpful chart so you can see what Jeff Sessions is talking about. Here’s what Sessions said:

I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime. The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.

Here’s Drum’s chart, “using numbers from the National Crime Victimization Survey for 1994-2015 (see here for background). The projection for 2016 is based on an increase of 5.3 percent reported by the FBI for the first half of 2016.”

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2017 at 11:29 am

Systemic racism in America explained in just three minutes

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Jason Kottke has a powerful post, which begins with a three-minute video:

Kottke writes:

This short video shows several ways in which systemic racism is still very much alive and well in the United States in 2017. See also Race Forward’s video series featuring Jay Smooth.

“What Is Systemic Racism?” is an 8-part video series that shows how racism shows up in our lives across institutions and society: Wealth Gap, Employment, Housing Discrimination, Government Surveillance, Incarceration, Drug Arrests, Immigration Arrests, Infant Mortality… yes, systemic racism is really a thing.

The reason why this matters should be obvious. Just like extra effort can harness the power of compound interest in knowledge and productivity, even tiny losses that occur frequently can add up to a large deficit. If you are constantly getting dinged in even small ways just for being black, those losses add up and compound over time. Being charged more for a car and other purchases means less life savings. Less choice in housing results in higher prices for property in less desirable neighborhoods, which can impact choice of schools for your kids, etc. Fewer callbacks for employment means you’re less likely to get hired. Even if you do get the job, if you’re late for work even once every few months because you get stopped by the police, you’re a little more likely to get fired or receive a poor evaluation from your boss. Add up all those little losses over 30-40 years, and you get exponential losses in income and social status.

And these losses often aren’t small at all, to say nothing of drug offenses and prison issues; those are massive life-changing setbacks. The war on drugs and racially selective enforcement have hollowed out black America’s social and economic core. . .

Continue reading.

The fact is that the United States has been a racist society since its beginning, and it is obvious to those who look. However, many whites, enjoying their privileged position, will not look. (A good book in this connection: Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception, by Daniel Goleman.) To take one glaringly obvious example: the genocide of the Native Americans, who still must struggle to make their voice heard (cf. the Dakota Access Pipeline struggle at Standing Rock).  Of see the attitude many Americans express about immigrants.

One good example is the War on Drugs. When drugs were a serious problem in the black community, as in the days of crack cocaine, we got paramilitary actions against both drug suppliers and drug victims, with mandatory minimum sentences and tens of thousands sent to prison for the crime of addiction.

Now, however, the drug epidemic is affecting white victims, and lo! the tactics used are suddenly much more compassionate. See, for example, Al Baker’s report “When Opioid Addicts Find an Ally in Blue” in the NY Times:

BURLINGTON, Vt. — In this college town on the banks of Lake Champlain, Chief Brandon del Pozo has hired a plain-spoken social worker to oversee opioids policy and has begun mapping heroin deaths the way his former commanders in the New York Police Department track crime.

In New York City, detectives are investigating overdoses with the rigor of homicides even if murder charges are a long shot. They are plying the mobile phones of the dead for clues about suppliers and using telltale marks on heroin packages and pills to trace them back to dealers. And like their colleagues in Philadelphia and Ohio, they are racing to issue warnings about deadly strains of drugs when bodies fall, the way epidemiologists take on Zika.

The police in Arlington, Mass., intervene with vulnerable users. Officials in Everett, Wash., have sued a pharmaceutical firm that they say created a black market for addicts. Seattle’s officers give low-level drug and prostitution suspects a choice: treatment instead of arrest and jail.

Opioids are cutting through the country, claiming increasing deaths and, in some cities, wrecking more lives than traffic fatalities and murders combined. Police leaders are weary of the scenes: 911 calls; bodies with needles in their arms; drugs called “fire” strewn about. They are assigning themselves a big role in reversing the problems. They are working with public health officials, and carrying more antidote for heroin and its synthetic cousin fentanyl.

Continue reading the main story

Few see policing, by itself, as the answer to such a complex social problem, certainly not through enforcement alone. The law enforcement approach to the crack-cocaine scourge of the late 1980s filled jails and prisons, expanded government and did little to address the social issues driving that addiction crisis.

“The police can play a critical role in a very broadly based social and medical response,” said Samuel Walker, an emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska Omaha. “So if people think we are going to arrest our way out of the opioid crisis, they’re wrong.”

Governors like Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey, both former prosecutors, have adopted a notably compassionate tone in framing the crisis. In 2014, Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont used 34 minutes of his state-of-the state speech to urge treatment and support for addicts. As a candidate, President Trump vowed to solve America’s drug crisis, a pledge that resonated in impoverished, rural areas that have been ravaged in recent years by opioids.

Labeling it a health epidemic, not a war on drugs, marks a stark contrast with the criminal justice system’s approach to the crack-cocaine plague, which was met by mass arrests in mostly black and Hispanic communities. [But the opioid epidemic is affecting whites, so a totally different approach is used. – LG]

Now, policing leaders claim to have learned from the past. But they also know how violent crime can flow from illegal drugs the way Anthony Riccio, a chief in the Chicago Police Department, says is happening in his city. A big fear among police chiefs is that increased demand for low-cost, high-potency opioids will lead to more shootings, and murders, as prices drop and drug traffickers organize.

In Mexico, where almost all of the heroin entering the United States is grown and cultivated, violence surrounding the drug trade is “horrific,” said Chuck Rosenberg, who runs the Drug Enforcement Administration.

But American cities are not immune.

“In almost all of our major seizures and arrests, we’re encountering weapons,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “And there’s only one reason to have those around.”

Increasingly, the police find themselves scrambling from call to call for reports of seemingly lifeless bodies. Death counts are rising. Nearly 1,400 people died of drug overdoses in New York City last year, the highest ever and up from 937 the previous year. In Philadelphia, the tally was 906. Nationally, there were 52,000 overdose deaths in 2015, Mr. Rosenberg said. And last year, the drug overdose death count likely exceeded 59,000, according to preliminary data compiled by The New York Times. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2017 at 9:37 am

Stubborn ignorance is the worst kind: Jeff Sessions personally asked Congress to let him prosecute medical marijuana providers

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Jeff Sessions is operating on an autopilot program set several decades ago. Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is asking congressional leaders to undo federal medical marijuana protections that have been in place since 2014, according to a May letter that became public Monday.

The protections, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, prohibit the Justice Department from using federal funds to prevent certain states “from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

In his letter, first obtained by Tom Angell of Massroots.com and verified independently by The Washington Post, Sessions argued that the amendment would “inhibit [the Justice Department’s] authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act.” He continues:

I believe it would be unwise for Congress to restrict the discretion of the Department to fund particular prosecutions, particularly in the midst of an historic drug epidemic and potentially long-term uptick in violent crime. The Department must be in a position to use all laws available to combat the transnational drug organizations and dangerous drug traffickers who threaten American lives.

Sessions’s citing of a “historic drug epidemic” to justify a crackdown on medical marijuana is at odds with what researchers know about current drug use and abuse in the United States. The epidemic Sessions refers to involves deadly opiate drugs, not marijuana. A growing body of research (acknowledged by the National Institute on Drug Abuse) has shown that opiate deaths and overdoses actually decrease in states with medical marijuana laws on the books.

That research strongly suggests that cracking down on medical marijuana laws, as Sessions requested, could perversely make the opiate epidemic even worse.

In an email, John Hudak of the Brookings Institution characterized the letter’s arguments as a “scare tactic” that  “could appeal to rank-and-file members or to committee chairs in Congress in ways that could threaten the future of this Amendment.”

Under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department also sought to undermine the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment. It circulated misleading talking points among Congress to influence debate over the measure, and it attempted to enforce the amendment in a way that “defies language and logic,” “tortures the plain meaning of the statute” and is “at odds with fundamental notions of the rule of law,” in the ruling of a federal judge.

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment has significant bipartisan support in Congress. Medical marijuana is incredibly popular with voters overall. A Quinnipiac poll conducted in April found it was supported by 94 percent of the public. Nearly three-quarters of voters said they disapprove of the government enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized it either medically or recreationally. . .

Continue reading.

Note that it’s not just a partisan issue. It is an issue that divides drug-warriors and normal people, and as the article points out, the drug-warriors make no sense: making medical marijuana inaccessible will increase the opioid epidemic (which, of course, increases profits for pharmaceutical companies, which might be the point). But opioids are deadly and marijuana is basically harmless: less harmful than coffee, at any rate.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2017 at 9:03 am

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