As we told you last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to announce some rather substantial changes to federal drug policy this week including dropping mandatory minimum sentencing in some drug cases, early release for non-violent offenders, allowing states to handle more drug cases and, eventually, bi-partisan drug reform at the congressional level.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, we can expect Holder’s comments sometime today in his remarks to the American Bar Association national convention in San Francisco.
Holder mentioned the reform last week in an interview with NPR in which he admitted to a lot of “unintended consequences” in the 40-year-old War on Drugs implemented by the Nixon administration. Notably, Holder seems to finally be among the few federal government official to recognize and address the disparity in arrests between people of color and their pot-smoking white counterparts.
“There’s been a decimation of certain communities, in particular communities of color,” he said to NPR at the time.
While the move is being cheered as much-needed step forward, some are questioning the timing – specifically why this couldn’t have happened four years ago.
“There’s no good reason why the Obama administration couldn’t have done something like this during his first term – and tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of Americans have suffered unjustly as a result of their delay,” Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a prepared statement. “But that said, President Obama and Attorney General Holder deserve credit for stepping out now, and for doing so in a fairly decisive way.”
Other DPA members urged the president to commute the sentences of people still incarcerated under antiquated “100-to-1” crack-to-powder ratios formerly used to convict people of selling crack as opposed to cocaine, which carried lower sentences.
But while holder will be addressing drug policy, he apparently will not be addressing the issues of state-legal medical and recreational cannabis. According to Wesley Smith over at the National Review, medical cannabis is not even discussed.
In recent months, there have been several high-profile federal raids of medical marijuana dispensaries that leads many to believe that a policy shift in those spheres is unlikely. Similarly, Holder has not issued an official response to Colorado and Washington legalizing recreational cannabis in certain limited, regulated amounts. That might fall within the prevue of his new sentencing and drug policy priorities, however.