U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder denounced America's "outsized, unnecessarily large prison population" yesterday and called for a shift in the federal government's approach to drug-related crimes and mandatory minimum sentences. Holder's statements have created a buzz among many lawmakers, and has even found some otherwise unlikely allies. Namely, former Gov. Gary Johnson (R-NM).
Johnson's Communications Director, Joe Hunter, explains the former governor's take on the war on drugs and Holder's announcement.
Reason: What is Gov. Johnson's current position on the war on drugs?
Hunter: Gov. Johnson's position remains that the so-called war on drugs is an abject failure. The prison overcrowding, costs and discrimination that Attorney General Holder referenced in his announcement are all largely the result of a modern day Prohibition that has worked no better, and in many ways is far more harmful, than the one America rejected 80 years ago.
Reason: Is Holder's announcement a step in the right direction?
Hunter: Holder's announcement is a very small step in the right direction, but it does not even come close to addressing the problem. In reality, the number of Americans who are arrested for drug offenses and to whom his directive will apply is only a small slice of those who are being prosecuted every day. And, his directive does nothing to reform the underlying and flawed drug laws. Legalization of marijuana is the first step that will really begin to make a difference.
Reason: What does Gary Johnson like or dislike about the policy/announcement?
Hunter: Obviously, anything that reduces the unfair and unnecessary impacts of wrong-headed drug laws is good. Likewise, to the extent his announcement helps stimulate a meaningful discussion of mandatory minimum sentences, it is helpful. However, given the very limited practical effects of this policy change, there is always a concern that it will distract us from the need for truly meaningful drug law reform.
Johnson was the 2012 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, and current chairman of Our America Initiative, whose aim is to "redefinie the liberty movement in America."