War on Drugs

War on Drugs – The More Things Change

The More Things Change

War on Drugs – the more things change…the more they stay the same. Recently, our new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, announced a new “tough on drug dealers” stance.  The Attorney General’s new policy requires federal prosecutors to impose the highest charges and seek the longest sentences in criminal cases.  “If you are a drug trafficker, we will not look the other way, we will not be willfully blind to your misconduct,” said Mr. Sessions.[1]

War on Drugs

War on Drugs

My how history repeats itself.  The first “tough on drugs” policy was in the 1970’s in New York with the Rockefeller Laws.  These laws created stiff prison sentences, including life in prison, for even minor drug offenses.  All they accomplished was swelling the prison population and requiring the building of many new prisons.  Drugs remained.  The laws were changed in the early 2000’s to address the burgeoning prison population.  Governor David Patterson announced, “I can’t think of a criminal justice strategy that has been more unsuccessful than the Rockefeller drug laws.”[2]

Again, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 created lengthy prison terms for even small amounts of crack cocaine.  Recently, we saw how former President Obama pardoned or commuted the sentences of people who were sentenced to decades or life in prison for small amounts of drugs.

Admittedly, some drugs are very harmful and dangerous.  The easy response is to put people in prison – it gives great sound bites and gets votes from the non-drug using majority of people.  It obviously doesn’t work.

I often cite 2 analogies.  You get the death penalty for murder, but death rows are full.  Apparently, it doesn’t stop premeditated murder.  Bank robbery is a federal crime.  Banks train their employees, have guards, cameras, dye packs, and other security features.  Banks still get robbed.

You can put everyone who possesses drugs in prison for life.  All you will get is massive prisons.  When will politicians ever learn?

War on Drugs

Today’s guest blog is by Scott Campbell a Criminal Defense Attorney in Tempe Arizona; who was a former police officer with the City of Plantation, Florida, Police Department before becoming an attorney.

 

[1] Yaron Steinbuch, (12 May 2017). “Sessions pushes for harshest charges possible in drug cases”. New York Post. New York, New York.

[2] Irene Jay Liu (9 January 2009). “Paterson once arrested over Rockefeller drug law reform”. The Times UnionAlbany, New York.