U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been outspoken about his disdain for cannabis and his desire to shut down the industry as a whole, but some states are adamant about defending their citizens' rights.
"The Justice Department's shift to prosecuting and incarcerating more offenders, including low-level and drug offenders, is an ineffective way to protect public safety", Law Enforcement Leaders member and former U.S. Attorney for Utah Brett Tolman said in a statement. Prosecutors were directed instead to focus on the most serious offenses.
"We are returning to the laws as passed by Congress", Sessions said Friday while announcing the new guidelines. In its place, Mr. Sessions commanded federal prosecutors to "charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense", a policy that will undoubtedly put some people in prison longer than is just or practical.
The Justice Department has already had conversations with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons about the need for flexibility with capacity in relation to immigration detainees, so U.S. officials are apparently aware they may need to increase prison space although at the moment the federal prison population is at an all-time low. But as defense attorney firm Perlmutter & McGuiness points out, simple possession can often induce "intent to distribute" charges regardless of the drug amount involved. Sessions however, is working to punish and imprison offenders to the fullest extent possible and working to include minimum mandatory sentences.
"To be tough on crime we have to be smart on crime".
The directive does allow prosecutors to show leniency in the cases that "would result in an injustice", but in all other cases, Sessions is ordering prosecutors to go for the throat.
Holder called the new policy "unwise and ill-informed", saying it ignored consensus between Democrats and Republicans, and data demonstrating that prosecutions of high-level drug defendants had risen under his guidance.
"Abandoning this evidence-based progress and turning back the clock to a discredited, emotionally motivated, ideological policy also threatens the financial stability of the federal criminal justice system", Holder said.
Sen. Rand Paul has been one of the leading voices for criminal justice reform throughout his entire senate career, particularly of eliminating what he sees as draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws. "It means we are going to meet our responsibility to enforce the law with judgment and fairness".
In a bid to impose strict and maximum punishment for crimes, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo directing federal prosectors to impose punishments on crimes more harshly. The Sessions memo essentially guarantees a larger federal prison population, ensuring that money that would be better used on preventing crime will be spent imprisoning people who are no risk to the communities.
West Virginia has also seen the value in a broader approach to drug abuse, said Jim Johnson, the drug control policy director for the city of Huntington. African Americans are four times as likely as whites to be arrested for drug offenses despite the fact that whites and blacks use drugs at roughly the same rate and that people who buy drugs usually purchase them from sellers of their own racial or ethnic background.