Attorney General Jeff Sessions weighed in with his ideas of what drug laws will “Make America Great Again” via a memo on May 10.
Session’s order told federal prosecutors to revert back to the old “War on Drug” policies pursuing the harshest possible charges and longest sentence for all suspects charge with drug crimes.
— ACLU National (@ACLU) May 12, 2017
Session’s order puts an end to a memo released by then-Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder instructed US attorneys to reserve the strictest sentencing and multiple charges to only the drug offenders who had clear ties to violent and organized crime.
Holder’s goal was to end the tendency for small-time drug crime to result in decades-long prison sentences. In its worst case, someone with two prior drug convictions could get life in prison if arrested with a small amount of marijuana.
Session claimed that the new order “fully utilizes the tools Congress has given us.” His statement totally ignores the multiple bipartisan Congressional efforts to pass sentencing reforms that were stymied by then-Sen. Sessions.
Senator Rand Paul, a longtime advocate of Criminal Justice Reform, blasted Session’s order for the havoc it would wreak on communities of color. “Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated too many minorities for too long. Attorney General Sessions’ new policy will accentuate that injustice. 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.”
— The Hill (@thehill) May 12, 2017
Sessions also took away the independence of the prosecutors. Under the Obama administration, charges, pleas, and sentencing recommendations were up to the prosecutor and a supervisor. Session wrote that prosecutors must now get an Assistant Attorney General or the US Attorney to sign off on all their work.
Holder’s memo and the bipartisan Congressional efforts to change the law were attempts to end racist sentence disparities between cases involving crack and powder cocaine.
So @realDonaldTrump told Black folks, “What the hell do you have to lose?” Every time Jeff Sessions does something, we say, “A LOT.”
— rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) May 12, 2017
How these changes relate to states that have legalized marijuana laws is unknown.