Marijuana: Is Obama Administration Softening Stance on Pot?

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Thu, Aug 8, 2013 at 9:05 AM

  • Susan Slade Photography for LA Weekly
It's the Obama administration Department of Justice that has been raiding and shutting down marijuana dispensaries in medical-legal places like, oh, right here in Los Angeles.

That alone has produced a love-hate relationship between the cannabis nation and a president who admitted inhaling in his younger days. Eric Holder, Obama's top cop, is ultimately the guy behind those raids, too. But pot proponents are hopeful change is in the wind in Washington:

In an interview with NPR yesterday Attorney General Holder said it's time for federal sentencing reform so fewer people end up in prison, ostensibly for relatively minor drug violations.

In California, the state is under a federal court order to reduce its greatly overcrowded prisons by 9,600 inmates by the end of the year. Some will probably go free.

The U.S. prison population reached a record 1.6 million in 2009 but has started to decline since then, partly as a result of California's federally mandated inmate reductions.

click to enlarge ERIC HOLDER / U.S. DEPT. OF JUSTICE
  • Eric Holder / U.S. Dept. of Justice

In fact, Holder indicated that we could do with less of our population, particularly overrepresented minorities, behind bars:

The war on drugs is now 30, 40 years old. There have been a lot of unintended consequences. There's been a decimation of certain communities, in particular communities of color.

He said the DOJ could "change our enforcement priorities," but indicated that Congress should also act with sentencing reform. Holder is expected to reveal some ideas next week.

In the meantime, the Drug Policy Alliance, which has said that our tax dollars have been wasted for years on incarcerating minor drug offenders, was happy with the top cop's remarks.

The DPA would like to see the administration:

-Support bipartisan sentencing reform bills.

-Nominate a drug czar who's not a War on Drugs warrior.

-And stop raiding pot shops in medical-legal states.

Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, says in a statement sent to the Weekly and other outlets:

Attorney General Holder is clearly right to condemn mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Both he and the president have an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy by securing substantial, long-overdue drug policy reform.

Seeing how gung-ho Obama's DOJ has been against dispensaries, we don't expect much. Bu he's got three more years left. There's still time.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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