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Drug Policy Reform Organizations Weigh in on Holder

I asked several drug policy reform groups for a statement on Obama's nomination of Eric Holder to head up the Justice Department.  The consensus seemed to be mild disappointment tempered with cautious optimism that despite his recent staff selections, Obama will keep his campaign promises to end the federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries and work to ameliorate the discrepancy in crack/powder cocaine sentencing.

I think this is about right.  In Rahm Emanuel, Joe Biden, and now Holder, Obama has already picked some pretty aggressive drug warriors for top positions.  That's troubling only to the extent that their positions on federal drug policy factored into his decision to choose them.  I doubt that it played a role with any of the three. 

All three will of course be advising Obama.  And I'd rather have less draconian aides whispering in his ear.  But if Obama has designs on changing federal drug policy, he'll do so.  Neither Biden, nor Holder, nor Emanuel can stop him.  Who Obama ends up choosing to head up the DEA and ONDCP will be a far better indicator of whether he intends to continue the Bush administration's aggressive prosecution of the drug war, or if he's looking at a more tempered approach.

My prediction?  He'll call off the medical marijuana raids.  Anything more would be a pleasant surprise.  And even that will be offset by his insistence on resurrecting harmful criminal justice block grant programs.

The ACLU's Drug Law Reform Project declined to comment.  But here's what other drug policy reform advocates had to say:

Aaron Houston, director of government relations, Marijuana Policy Project

Holder's record from a dozen years ago is concerning, but we expect President-elect Obama to keep his pledge to end federal raids in medical marijuana states, and that the Obama administration will not rerun the Clinton administration's terrible medical marijuana policies. One in four Americans now lives in a medical marijuana state, and medical marijuana outpolled Obama in Michigan by six points. Medical marijuana states, including Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, were essential to Obama's victory, and continuing a federal war against a quarter of the country would make no sense.

Bill Piper, director of of national affairs, Drug Policy Alliance

Holder seems really knowledgeable about the ways the war on terror infringes on civil liberties and how that undermines law enforcement, but seems to have a blindspot when it comes to the war on drugs, which also infringes on civil liberties and undermines law enforcement (probably more so than the war on terror). President-elect Obama doesn't have this blindspot so there's room for hope. America needs an Attorney General who will stand behind Obama's promises to end the DEA's medical marijuana raids in California, eliminate the crack/powder disparity, repeal the federal syringe ban and begin treating drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue. 

 Julie Stewart, president, Families Against Mandatory Minimums

FAMM’s experience with Eric Holder has been limited primarily to executive clemencies granted during the Clinton administration and that experience was generally a good one.  Holder was Deputy Attorney General when nearly two dozen nonviolent drug offenders serving harsh and excessive sentences were granted much-deserved commutations at the end of President Clinton’s term.  Although Holder is most well-known for his opinion regarding the Marc Rich pardon, he presumably reviewed and recommended in favor of commuting the sentences of the drug offenders, too, who have gone on to lead productive and law-abiding lives.  Hopefully, his experience as Deputy Attorney General will motivate him to take an active role as Attorney

General in ensuring that clemency requests are processed in an efficient manner and that real and meaningful review is given to all cases, which is currently not happening.

Holder’s past positions on mandatory minimum sentences give pause.  As the U.S. Attorney in Washington, DC in 1996 he advocated for mandatory sentences of 18 months to six years for selling drugs – including marijuana.  (Thankfully, the DC City Council did not adopt his proposal.)  FAMM will give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that in the ensuing dozen years he has developed a more comprehensive view of sentencing policy that gives the courts the reasoned discretion they need to sentence individuals according to their culpability. Confirmation hearings should flesh out his current position on sentencing policy.

Allen St. Pierre, executive director, NORML

NORML has serious concerns about the choice of Eric Holder as the next Attorney General because he has a long history of opposing drug policy reforms, perceiving cannabis smoking by adults as a public nuisance worthy of constant harassment, promoting violent governmental intervention into the private lives of citizens who consume cannabis, supporting mandatory minimum sentencing and so-called civil forfeiture laws.

His attraction to the myth of ‘fixing broken windows’ and using law enforcement to crack down on petty crimes will swell an already overburdened, bloated, expensive and failed government prohibition against otherwise law-abiding citizens who choose to consume cannabis.

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  • ||

    ...Obama will keep his campaign promises...

    Stop it! My ribs are hurting now, quit making me laugh so much!

  • ||

    Those on the left who are shocked and upset by Obama picking so many Clinton retreads might want to think about the role of campaign finance laws in this. If we didn't have campaign finance laws, George Soros and those clowns at Google could have funded 90% of Obama's campaign and he wouldn't owe anyone anything. But thanks to those laws, he can't do that. He has to raise money in small increments. To do that you have to have connected political types help you. The price of them doing that is giving them government appointments. Obama had to rely on the party apparatus to raise money and get elected and now he owes that apparatus and most of them are former Clintonites.

    The other problem he has is that he has never done anything. Governors like Clinton or Bush bring their own mafias from the States they come from. Obama doesn't have that. I mean who is going to bring with him from Chicago? Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright?

  • ||

    "The consensus seemed to be mild disappointment tempered with cautious optimism that despite his recent staff selections, Obama will keep his campaign promises to end the federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries and work to ameliorate the discrepancy in crack/powder cocaine sentencing."

    Damn. These folks have been smoking some BAD shit.

  • ||

    Translating Radley for the masses: "Let's start digging folks! With this much horseshit there's got to be pony in here somewhere!"

  • ||

    Obama hasn't done a single thing yet that is hopey, changey, or that he promised to do. Yet these dopes (except for NORML) still think he's going to do what he said?

    I really hope he does do what he said. But honestly, I don't think he will.

  • ||

    "He'll call off the medical marijuana raids."
    LMAO

  • ||

    Epi,

    You can't spell hope and change with Daschle and Hillary. You such a cynic.

  • ||

    John--

    Also, remember, the Clinton administration was successful (relatively speaking). Clinton shunned Carter administration people mostly because Carter was a giant failure. If the last administration your party had in power was more or less a success, why not use them?

  • ||

    Actually, at this point, I'm not sure I want to see drugs legalized anymore. I've been around long enough to notice that all trendy lefty social causes that start out with "It's nobody else's business! I'm not hurting anyone else but myself!", usually wind up becoming my business, whether I like or not, and also wind up hurting me, at least in the wallet.

    Take abortion - Roe v. Wade found a right based on a "right to privacy". Ok, fair enough. But no sooner was the ink dry on the decision than legislatures started deciding that a right to abortion meant that the government had to ensure it was accessible, meaning the tax-payer was gonna be footing the bill for it. Or the sodomy laws - ok, I can agree that what other people do in the bedroom isn't my business. Of course, the matter didn't rest there. Now gays are politicking for "equal rights", which means marriage and all attendant public subsidies that go with it.

    If drugs are legalized, I can just see the junkies lining up to demand their Purple Hearts - "Soldiers bleed when they're shot, we bleed when we shoot up! IT'S EEEEQUAAAAL!" At a minimum, I expect the tax-payer will wind up footing the bill for at least some people's dope, not to mention public subsidized treatment programs.

    As someone who's taken lot's of drugs, I beg the legislature not to legalize them. Legalize it, and sooner or later the party is going to be at my expense as a tax-payer. At least now I only have to pay for my own dope. Let's keep it that way!

  • ||

    "If the last administration your party had in power was more or less a success, why not use them?"


    Because you beat the representative of that administration for the nomination and spent your whole campaign saying you were something different from what had been before. I don't have a problem with some of the Clinton people he is bringing in. But I really didn't want hope and change or any such nonsense.

    A lot of his supporters do. They are going to be very disillusioned when they see that this administration has more Clinton retreads than a Hillary Clinton Administration would have. If Obama wants to be Clinton II, that is fine with me. That sounds a lot better than Obama I. Just that if he is going to do that, he needs to explain that to all of the nitwits who voted for him thinking it was going to be something new.

  • ||

    Legalize it, and sooner or later the party is going to be at my expense as a tax-payer. At least now I only have to pay for my own dope

    Are you fucking serious? You do realize that your taxes pay the enormous cost of the drug war, right? The massive law enforcement presence, the massive spending on incarceration, prosecution, and trials of drug offenders, the massive spending on trying to prevent drug cultivation and production in other countries, and the massive costs of black markets?

    You're paying right now, super genius. Even if people went on a "drug dole", I seriously doubt that could possibly cost you more as a taxpayer than a failed drug war does now.

  • ||

    the unregistered voter | November 20, 2008, 2:07pm |

    As someone who's taken lot's of drugs, I beg the legislature not to legalize them. Legalize it, and sooner or later the party is going to be at my expense as a tax-payer. At least now I only have to pay for my own dope. Let's keep it that way!


    So you're okay with your tax dollars going to investigate, arrest, prosecute, incarcerate, etc. those who choose to use drugs?

  • Chuchundra||

    Obama hasn't done a single thing yet that is hopey, changey, or that he promised to do. Yet these dopes (except for NORML) still think he's going to do what he said?



    It's been three weeks since he was elected and we've still got two months to go until he actually takes office. Can wait until at least February before we start criticizing Obama for "not doing a single thing".

    I wouldn't read too much into the pick of Holder. He's someone with extensive experience inside the DOJ, the kind of person you want to fix all of the things that have been broken at Justice over the last eight years. It looks a lot more like an operational choice than an ideological one.

  • ||

    John, maybe "change" really meant, "Clinton w/out the sleaziness and sex?"

  • ||

    BDB,

    What about the free trade part of Clinton's legacy?

  • ||

    The other problem he has is that he has never done anything. Governors like Clinton or Bush bring their own mafias from the States they come from. Obama doesn't have that. I mean who is going to bring with him from Chicago? Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright?



    Fuck you John for saying something I agree with...

    Seriously though, who'd you expect him to nominate? Think of them as his executive branch training wheels. Hopefully he can keep them in line and stick to his promises(stop laughing).

    Another way to look at it - you don't get ahead in the political climate of past without being hard on crime/drugs/etc. Being reasonable on those issues wouldn't get you promoted into the jobs where you'd get the experience that would qualify you to obtain a cabinet level position. So hopefully these guys are unprincipled yes-men like everyone else in D.C. and they fall in line with their new boss's wishes.

    Hopefully.

  • ||

    "Clinton w/out the sleaziness and sex?"

    The sleaziness and the sex was the best part. Ever noticed how the economy boomed while Washington was wrapped up in a swirling miasma of vagina-cigars and cum-stained dresses?

  • John \"Wonk\" Walters||

    Buyers' remorse: 99.9% of MMJ/reform advocates voted for Obama. Their web sites want nothing to do with anything negative about him and will take down anything negative said about him & this issue. Some change, eh?

    Meet the new boss: same as the old boss.

  • ||

    Drugs are bad...mmmkay.

  • ||

    SugarFree,

    You just expanded my vocabulary. I'm gonna have to use the phrase "swirling miasma" sometime today.

  • ||

    and I'll be using "vagina-cigars".

  • ||

    "Naga Sadow | November 20, 2008, 2:21pm | #
    BDB,

    What about the free trade part of Clinton's legacy?"

    Obama will be a free trader and Kos will throw a hissy fit. Just watch.

  • ||

    Ever noticed how the economy boomed while Washington was wrapped up in a swirling miasma of vagina-cigars and cum-stained dresses?

    Having D.C. completely wrapped up in a stupid, pointless partisan scandal is 100% the way to go. You get entertainment, politicians doing nothing, and hopefully some ruined/destroyed careers. You can't lose.

  • ||

    Umm, SOME drugs are already legal. Alcohol comes to mind. Obama, Holder e.g. are just alcohol supremacists.

  • ||

    What about the free trade part of Clinton's legacy?

    Yeah, without that part too.

  • ||

    Sorry BDB, but Xeones basically stated my thoughts.

  • ||

    Eh, we will see.

  • ||

    "Having D.C. completely wrapped up in a stupid, pointless partisan scandal is 100% the way to go. You get entertainment, politicians doing nothing, and hopefully some ruined/destroyed careers. You can't lose."

    That is not really true. The 90s economy was in no small part the result of Bush I facing the S&L crisis and Clinton and Gingrich getting NAFTA and capital gains cuts through and also controling spending. They did do somethings back then besides investigate one another. But even then, a lot of the 1990s was the result of the tech bubble. Of course we never suffered the full effects of the tech crash becasue Greenspan pumped up the money supply and helped us get more prosperity in the 00s due to the housing bubble. That didn't work out so well. We would have been better off having our recession in 00 and 01.

  • ||

    BDB,

    Indeed . . . indeed.

  • ||

    Clinton's legacy, to the extent that he has one, is almost entirely thanks to the Republican Congress. Either stopping him from doing something stupid or in, by getting elected in 1994, scaring him into acting all limited governmenty.

    Not that Congress wasn't flawed, but it did briefly play the appropriate role of checking the presidency.

  • ||

    Pro Lib,

    No Censor at work? I am skeptical of your claim.

  • ||

    The tech boom at least left us with a handful of successful internet companies and broadband.

  • ||

    Also, I wouldn't count on the idea of these people falling in line with the boss. Most times in government the boss falls in line with the staff.

    In a high position, the staff determines what information the boss has and thus what decisions he makes. This is especially true of bosses who pride themselves on being practical and non-ideological. Last I heard that was one of Obama's big selling points. The bureaucracy is going to run circles around him.

  • ||

    "The tech boom at least left us with a handful of successful internet companies and broadband."

    Nothing wrong with booms as long as you are willing to take your medicine when the bust comes.

  • ||

    Naga,

    The impeachment was as close to the Censor as we've gotten. And it gave us a great economy! Once I get the Censor in place, politicians will be spending too much time hiding under their desks to pass frivolous and/or unconstitutional laws.

  • ||

    Pro Lib,

    You may have missed your chance. Obama's been elected and according to the Mayans, apocalypse is near. Final confrontation, baby. On a personal note, I've been trying to train this stray dog nearby to obey my commands so I can stick a bandana around his neck when I go cruisin' the wasteland lookin' for gas.

  • ||

    "I've been trying to train this stray dog nearby to obey my commands so I can stick a bandana around his neck when I go cruisin' the wasteland lookin' for gas."


    Do you have your Jensen Interceptor?

  • ||

    Workin' on it John. The Interceptor was built on a Ford Falcon GTX frame. The Ford Falcon was only made in and for Australia. The supercharger didn't work on it so the film crew just tied it down on the engine.

  • ||

    America needs an Attorney General who will stand behind Obama's promises to end the DEA's medical marijuana raids in California, eliminate the crack/powder disparity, repeal the federal syringe ban and begin treating drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue. [emphasis added]



    Simple drug use is not even a health issue. Excessive drug use is an individual health issue.

    [/bitching]

  • ||

    Naga,

    I think Jensen Interceptor is the coolest car name ever. I would love to have one.

  • ||

    If we didn't have campaign finance laws, George Soros and those clowns at Google could have funded 90% of Obama's campaign and he wouldn't owe anyone anything.

    Well, except George Soros and thsoe clowns from Google.

    Governors like Clinton or Bush bring their own mafias from the States they come from. Obama doesn't have that.

    Its a little early to say that - I'm pretty sure that no go-along-to-get-along politician from Chicago doesn't have an entourage of Chicago pols that he owes. Before the election, the Chicago airwaves were full of people gloating and speculating over which Chicago pols would be going to DC.

  • ||

    John,

    I'm workin on getting a supercharger added to the 2011 Z28 I intend to buy. I'm definitely gonna need 600 hp like the Interceptor supposedly had. I believe that I read somewhere that you can order a replica for roughly 70k from a custom shop in Australia.

  • ||

    The tech boom at least left us with a handful of successful internet companies and broadband.

    Nothing wrong with booms as long as you are willing to take your medicine when the bust comes.



    And all of those houses that were built/expanded/upgraded during the housing boom ain't going anywhere either. There is a silver lining in that storm cloud. More housing = lower prices, a good thing in my estimation.

  • ||

    meet the new boss, same as the old boss

  • ||

    Anti-cannabis hysteria has calmed markedly in recent years, probably due to the surge in medial marijuana availability and a resulting appreciation of the facts by the people. Growing up in the 80s and 90s I was subjected to the black/white all drugs are evil (except nicotine and alcohol!) JUST SAY NO propaganda. Eventually the consensus was that these programs didn't work and were misleading children. I personally have gone from being DARE student of the year in middle school to being, well, let's just say a little less opposed to cannabis use... The national conversation is shifting hard. It will be difficult for Obama to continue to enforce drug raids because there are advocates out there and their arguments make sense, while the anti-cannabis arguments just don't.

  • ||

  • David Ross||

    NORML with that "broken windows" snark just revealed itself as a pro-crime lobby, not a marijuana-legalisation lobby.

  • David Ross||

    TonyQ, even as long ago as the late 1980s - where I was going to school, marijuana was being put in the same box as alcohol. (i.e., not for kids, and dangerous; but not anywhere near as bad as - for instance - speed.)

    And DARE doesn't work.

  • ||

    But if Obama has designs on changing federal drug policy, he'll do so. Neither Biden, nor Holder, nor Emanuel can stop him.

    Goddamn right. Only I get to tell him what to do.

  • ||

    I'll be looking for two things within the first month:
    -An end to the federal raids on marijuana clinics
    -Dropping the fight against the N. Dakota hemp farmers.
    If I don't see both of those things my Gary Johnson 2012 sticker will be on my car for the next four years.

  • ||

    ...Obama will keep his campaign promises to end the federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries...

    I want a cite on this promise.Cite must be dated later than his campaign spokesmans quote below.


    Obama basically retracted his promise to end the Fed raids on med MJ. Excepting the imaginary "FDA approved" variety.

    You dumb fucks are basing everything on this vague and contradictory statement:

    "Obama supports the rights of states and local governments to make this choice- though he believes medical marijuana should be subject to [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] regulation like other drugs," LaBolt said. He said the FDA should consider how marijuana is regulated under federal law, while leaving states free to chart their own course.

    If you can come up with a semi-clear official statement that Obama will end the Fed raids on med mj "dispensaries" I will apologize for thinking that Balko and Sullum are fucking brain-damaged hippies.

  • ||

    Though it appears he might have been coached or even fed the answer by his aide, this is is what Obama said in response to the question, "What would you be doing to stop the federal government from putting me in prison for using something [medical marijuana] that's legal in [a medical marijuana-legal state]?":

    "uhm the uhm, I would NOT have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana...it's, it's not a good use of our resources."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUze-oYsswI

    And it's barbaric.

    Obama should take a stand on this issue and stop stammering because most Americans support access to medical marijuana; but more importantly, because is the right thing to do.

  • ||

    When Obama was asked if he intended to continue Bush's drug prevenatge measures ObaMA SNIFFED NO.

  • ||

    As a State Senator, Obama voted for a pair of agricultural hemp bills. No comments on the retrievable record. does HE remember?

  • Hucbald||

    People like "unregistered voter" are one of the primary reasons I have a red palm-slap mark on my forehead. I too enjoyed plenty of highs in my youth, and today I no longer even drink, but at least I've managed to inform myself about the astronomical cost on the ever-failing, ever-flailing, "War on Drugs" (Which is really nothing other than a war on reason).

    Oh, and never mind that drug laws are what has turned our police into a bunch of arrogant, psychotic thugs at the cost of any sense of social well-being. No honorable man would do police work today, except in ignorance, and I'm a charitable guy, so I'll admit that police departments are rife with that.

    The bottom line here is that drug laws are the number one, mother lode, bonanza for lawyers and the legal-industrial complex, and so those laws will never make sense so long as we allow lawyers to make the law and judge the law: Lawyer-legislators are going to make laws to benefit lawyers at the expense of the citizens every single time, and no lawyer-judge will EVER render a decision that will adversely affect the legal profession, even if it is in the best interests of the citizens.

    If drug laws made sense, about half of the prisons would have to be shut down, about half the lawyers would be out of work, and about half of the police would have to be laid off, because about half of court cases, convicts, and arrests are ordered around insane drug laws.

    If you think Obama, a lawyer, is going to significantly change any of this FUBAR garbage, you're simply delusional.

    I'd like to see a third party with no campaign slogan other than, "Our Candidate is NOT a Lawyer." I'd vote straight-ticket for them for the rest of my life.

  • ||

    Hold on there, just a moment. All this bitchin' and moanin' about "Obama hasn't done anything he promised yet" crowd, WAKE UP!

    Obama himself said it, "America only has one President at a time. He's NOT President now. He won't be in any position to do anything until Jan. 20th!"

    Yet, somehow, you people seem to think that he can snap his fingers the day after the election and start changing things. You're stupider than everyone was accusing him of being!

    Why don't we give the guy a chance to take the oath before we start the cat calls? Get a grip on reality. I'm sure you were taught procedure better than that, while in school.

  • ||

    I can straighten Obama out about this. And I will, as soon as he pardons me and hands he a high-level position in his administration. I have relatives back in Lebanon, and we have a backlog of Lebanese Blonde hash to move.

  • ||

    these things take time... eventually, mj will be available for all!

  • John D||

    The massive law enforcement presence, the massive spending on incarceration, prosecution, and trials of drug offenders, the massive spending on trying to prevent drug cultivation and production in other countries, and the massive costs of black markets?



    Which is exactly why the "War on Drugs" will never go away. Too many people rely on it for their livelihood.

    Do you really think the politicians are going to give up a way to get their names and photos in the newspaper? Everyone from your local Mayor and Chief of Police up to and including the President (whomever that might be) has a stake in showing their toughness toward "crime" and their empathy for the "victims of drugs." Even better than the concern for the druggies themselves is the concern for their children.

    You don't expect a politician to support policies that "hurt the children", do you?

    Then there's the effect it would have on the jobs of a lot of Public Employees. Their Union would never stand for it.

  • Einstein||

    I just love all this hope and change BS. We don't have to wait till Feb to see whats going on. His greybeard appointments have shown that it is going to be business as usual.

    And so what if he follows through and stops DEA raids, you will still have the IRS going after the large scale operations. As they should. MMJ should not be controlled by a few dispensary operators who are nothing more than drug dealers using the MMJ laws as a shield for their illegal activities. There are much better ways for patients to get their meds without having to pay blackmarket prices and being taken advantage of, whether the patient can grow or not.

    Grow shares between 4 patients is the only way to go. Patients need to take control of our community.

  • Douglas Willinger||

    Holder- another Washington DC lawyer from that powerhouse law firm that advised the Drug Policy Foundation, big pharm and the cigarette industry;

    http://freedomofmedicineanddiet.blogspot.com/2008/12/obama-ag-holder-from-covington-burling.html

  • M. Simon||

    Obama will do a Clinton - marijuana arrests will go up.

  • M. Simon||

    If we didn't have campaign finance laws, George Soros and those clowns at Google could have funded 90% of Obama's campaign and he wouldn't owe anyone anything.

    Uh, wouldn't he owe Soros and the clowns at Google?

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