The Shift in Obama's DOJ Policy

The New York Times today reported on the huge shift that will take place in the Justice Department under President Obama. He will be breaking with the policies of the Bush Administration.

I sat down to read it anxious to get to the part about our unfair crack-powder cocaine sentencing laws, over-reliance on long prison sentences and need for alternative sentences in the federal system, and ending raids on medical marijuana patients and providers in states that had legalized it.

There were none. Law Prof Doug Berman of Sentencing Law and Policy has the same disappointed reaction as me. Of course, I never expected any as I wrote throughout the course of the primaries. But now that change is here, my hopes went up just like everyone else's. And I'm still hopeful there will be some relief.

I had to pick a topic yesterday for my talk at the NORML Aspen Legal Conference in June. (Link not available yet, here's the one for 2008.) I chose, "High Hopes and Modest Expectations: Drug Law Reform under President Obama and a Democratic Congress." Looks like that was a good choice.

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  • Display: Sort:
    NORMAL topic": "High Hopes" (none / 0) (#1)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Feb 02, 2009 at 04:39:41 PM EST
    Badda bing!

    I can't believe (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Mon Feb 02, 2009 at 04:48:33 PM EST
    I didn't catch that when I wrote it.  I really didn't. But, you're right, it makes it even more apt.

    lol (none / 0) (#3)
    by squeaky on Mon Feb 02, 2009 at 04:56:29 PM EST
    Your subconscious must have been working at a high level, so to speak... cough cough.... for writing that without realizing that it was a double entendre.  

    I get the feeling we are going to get (none / 0) (#5)
    by scribe on Mon Feb 02, 2009 at 05:12:48 PM EST
    more Jimmy and less Franklin out of Barack.



    We'll See (none / 0) (#6)
    by squeaky on Mon Feb 02, 2009 at 05:25:57 PM EST
    So far I am very happy with way less BushCo.. Our work is ahead of us, at least there is some hope because at last someone is home upstairs.

    Franklin signed the Marijuana Tax Act. (none / 0) (#11)
    by Ben Masel on Mon Feb 02, 2009 at 10:36:23 PM EST
    The Ford years saw the greatest, tho still modest, reforms of Drug Policy.

    ok, once more, for those of you (none / 0) (#7)
    by cpinva on Mon Feb 02, 2009 at 05:57:11 PM EST
    on drugs!:

    "follow the money"

    absent some huge groundswell of popular demand, there will be little, if any, changes to the current drug laws, or any criminal statutes.

    simply put, there is too much money involved, for those in government (law enforcement) and private industry (private prison owner's/mgrs., law enforcement eqpt. manufacturers/distributors) to allow any significant changes, that would have a material adverse impact on their revenue stream.

    this is just not going to be allowed to happen.

    profit motive (none / 0) (#10)
    by jedimom on Mon Feb 02, 2009 at 09:51:34 PM EST
    you know what I think was the real capper?
    the Asset Forefeiture thing,

    you are so right, under that they have motive to bust big people and seize their stuff and cash and auction it off, big revenue stream

    I read the implementation of the drug laws was a stretch for power from the FBI originally? is that accurate?
    now that the Feds have so much more on their plate to deal with couldn't we repeal asset forefeiture somehow, make it all go to charity thus reducing the incentive to keep it going?

    I was hoping we would get progress considering the adverse impact of those sentencing guidelines on minorities as HRC noted at SOTBU


    funny you bring that up. (none / 0) (#12)
    by cpinva on Tue Feb 03, 2009 at 12:20:40 AM EST
    the Asset Forefeiture thing,

    that is the closest we have to "letters of marque", in this country. for those not familiar with the term, it was a document, signed by the king (name a king, any king), authorizing the bearer to act as a private navy, as agent for the king, against the king's enemies. in return for providing ship/crew/weapons, the bearer received a % of the value of all captured ships.

    this was common practice during the elizabethan period up through the early 18th century. it was cheaper than building and crewing your own navy, and the financial incentive made it easy to find a crew, for succesful captains. add to that the fact that most of the crews and captains had been pirates anyway, and it was a boon for them: do what they'd already been doing, legally.

    one difference between holders of letters of marque, and our modern-day law enforcement: the legal pirates had an incentive to keep the crew and passengers of ships they captured alive, they could ransom them back to family/king; not so our DEA and local yocal SWAT teams.


    cpinva (none / 0) (#8)
    by WillieB on Mon Feb 02, 2009 at 07:04:10 PM EST
    Sadly, I agree with you 100%.

    sigh..HRC (none / 0) (#9)
    by jedimom on Mon Feb 02, 2009 at 09:48:17 PM EST
    at the SOTBU Hillary spoke extensively about the need for reform of the sentencing for drugs and the work she and Rep Sheila Jackson Lee had fought for and were still fighting for in that regard..

    sorry to see there are no plans for this..