“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,” said Tom Angell, Chairman of the Marijuana Majority.
“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.”
Angell and other drug policy reform advocates believe the value of Holder’s proposals will be in their implementation. “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,” Angell said. He also noted the Obama administration has yet to announce its response to the laws legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington.
Meanwhile, Stevenson believes that with policies outlined by Holder, the country can cut America’s prison population in half in 6 to 8 years. The stakes are high. “We have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. We are decimating communities. A black boy born in 2000 has a 32 percent chance of going to jail or prison. That is a shocking and really disturbing reality. We’ve got to make some changes. But I also think we have to think more fundamentally about crime and punishment.”