Eric Holder

U.S. Atty. Gen. Holder Urges Reduced Sentences For Nonviolent Drug Offenses

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Follows on Footsteps of White House’s Recent Call For Clemency Candidates

The U.S. Department of Justice has thrown its support behind an initiative from the federal Sentencing Commission that would reduce sentences for potentially thousands of nonviolent drug offenders who are currently in federal prison.

Last month, the U.S. Sentencing Commission approved a proposal that will reduce sentences for future drug offenders. Attorney General Eric Holder has now announced his backing for a separate proposal by the Commission that would apply retroactivity to these recently reduced sentences.

The proposal could affect between 20,000 and 50,000 nonviolent offenders currently in jail, and save taxpayers an estimated $2.4 billion.

“As a former, first-time, nonviolent drug offender I applaud Attorney General Eric Holder for supporting the retroactive proposal being considered by the U.S. Sentencing Commission," said Anthony Papa of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), who served 12 years under New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws. Papa was given clemency by Gov. Pataki in 1997.

"Many prisoners that would become eligible have paid their debt to society and deserve a second chance to be reunited with their families and become productive tax-paying citizens," Papa said. "This move would help correct sentencing laws that have broken our criminal justice system and led to the mass incarceration of many low-level nonviolent drug offenders.”

U.S.: Thousands of Prisoners Apply For Obama's Drug Clemency Program

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

More than 18,000 U.S. prisoners completed electronic surveys last month to apply for reduced sentences under President Barack Obama's new program designed to clear federal prisons of nonviolent offenders.

The federal Department of Justice in April announced a major new initiative that solicits petitions from inmates who have served more than 10 years for a nonviolent crime; most of these crimes are drug-related, reports Lis Goodwin at Yahoo News.

Federal prisoners are always able to petition the President to have their sentences commuted, but the new program is intended to give a break to those who were sentenced under the draconian mandatory minimums of now-defunct drug laws that increased the federal prison population by 800 percent since they were passed in the Reagan Administration.

Before the new program, about 18,000 federal prisoners had applied for commuted sentences over the previous 12 years combined. The clemency program is part of Obama's transformation from granting the fewest pardons of any modern President, in his first term, to potentially commuting the sentences of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders in his second.

Such a potentially large grant of clemency hasn't been seen since President Gerald Ford offered amnesty to Vietnam-era draft dodgers back in 1974.

U.S.: House Stops DEA From Undermining State Medical Marijuana and Hemp Laws

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First Time Ever Congress Approves Major Marijuana Law Reform

Bipartisan Rebuke of U.S. Drug War, DEA Overreach and Mismanagement by DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart

In a series of historic votes, the U.S. House voted to prohibit the DEA from undermining state marijuana laws. The House approved a bipartisan measure prohibiting the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from undermining state medical marijuana laws; the amendment passed with 219 yes votes. An amendment prohibiting the DEA from interfering with state hemp production laws passed with 237 yes votes. An amendment prohibiting the DEA from interfering with state hemp research programs passed with 246 yes votes.

“Each of these votes represents a major victory for those seeking more sensible marijuana policies,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Taken together, they represent an unprecedented change in course in the war on drugs. For years state after state has reformed their drug laws; now there’s a bipartisan consensus in Congress in favor of letting states set their own marijuana policies.”

The medical marijuana amendment was offered by six Republicans and six Democrats: Reps. Rohrabacher (R-CA), Farr (D-CA), Young (R-AK), Blumenauer (D-OR), McClintock (R-CA), Cohen (D-TN), Broun (R-GA), Polis (D-CO), Stockman (R-TX), Lee (D-CA), Amash (R-MI) and Titus (D-NV).

U.S.: Major Drug War Hearings In Congress This Week

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House Holds Hearing on Defense Department and State Department Drug War Activities, Senate Holds DEA Oversight Hearing

Hearings Come Amid Huge Domestic Drug Policy Reforms on Sentencing and Marijuana

This week, both chambers of Congress will hold major hearings on the Drug War.

On Tuesday, April 29, at 10 a.m., there will be joint subcommittee hearing entitled “Confronting Transnational Drug Smuggling: An Assessment of Regional Partnerships,” held by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure's Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. These Committees will hear from General John F. Kelly, USMC Commander of Southern Command, at the Department of Defense, and Luis E. Arreaga Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, at the Department of State.

Then on Wednesday, April 30, at 10 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Oversight of the Drug Enforcement Administration”. The sole witness is the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.

The hearings come against a backdrop of huge domestic change with respect to the Drug War. In the past year, Attorney General Eric Holder has made a number of forceful public statements against mass incarceration in the U.S., promising significant rollback of mandatory minimums and harsh sentencing guidelines.

U.S.: Obama Plans Clemency For 'Hundreds, Perhaps Thousands' Sentenced for Drug Law Violations

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Follows on Footsteps of White House’s Recent Call For Clemency Candidates

Drug Policy Alliance: Positive Step, But Comprehensive Sentencing Reform Is Needed to Prevent More Mass Injustice

A White House official has told Yahoo News that President Obama is prepared to use his pardon power to grant clemency to “hundreds, perhaps thousands” of people who have been jailed for nonviolent drug crimes.

The report said that the administration is making moves that will help it handle the increase in petitions that Mr. Obama is planning to sign off on before he leaves office. Last Tuesday, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said Obama has directed the Justice Department to improve its clemency recommendation process and recruit more applications from convicts.

The White House’s new moves would follow in the footsteps of a January announcement that the Obama administration would taking the unprecedented step of encouraging defense lawyers to suggest inmates whom the president might let out of prison early, as part of its effort to curtail severe penalties in low-level drug cases.

U.S.: Atty. Gen. Holder 'Cautiously Optimistic' About Legalization; Admits He's Tried Weed

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he is "cautiously optimistic" about marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington state, but added it's tough to predict where legalization will be in 10 years. In the same interview, Holder, the nation's top law enforcement official, admitted he had tried pot in college.

"I think there might have been a burst of feeling that what happened in Washington and Colorado was going to be soon replicated across the country," Holder told Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post. "I'm not sure that is necessarily the case.

"I think a lot of states are going to be looking to see what happens in Washington, what happens in Colorado before those decisions are made in substantial parts of the country," he said.

The Department of Justice has allowed marijuana legalization to go forward in the two states where votes chose that course back in November 2012, and has issued guidance to federal prosecutors that is intended to open up banking services for cannabis businesses that are legal under state law.

U.S.: Rev. Sharpton's National Action Network Convention To Address Failed Drug War

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President Obama, AG Holder, NY Gov. Cuomo, NYC Mayor DeBlasio and DPA’s Art Way to Speak at National Action Network (NAN) Convention April 9-14

Convention to Address Major Civil Rights Issues, Including the Failed Drug War and Mass Incarceration

President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio will all join Reverend Al Sharpton at his National Action Network’s annual national convention being held April 9-12 in New York, NY.

The conference is being billed as the largest civil rights convening of the year bringing the nation’s top activists, political strategists and leading academia together to create an action plan for a civil rights agenda. Participants will address key policy issues such as jobs, voter ID and immigration; which will be key in this midterm election year.

The conference is also focusing on the failed drug war and mass incarceration. A panel called “Up in Smoke: Banning of Menthol, Legalization of Marijuana & Criminalization of African Americans” will address racial justice and the war on drugs.

"We are at a critical point where momentum to end the drug war and mass incarceration is gaining traction,” said Art Way, Senior Policy Manager, Colorado, of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “It's not time to let up, it's time to ramp up."

U.S.: Atty. Gen. Holder Says It's Unclear Whether Feds Can Force States To Outlaw Marijuana

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Despite Recent Pledge to Work with Congress, Refuses to Initiate Process to Reschedule Marijuana

Team Established to Review Nonviolent, Low-Level Drug Offender Candidates for Clemency

Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday appeared before the House Judiciary Committee for an oversight hearing in which he stated that federal law does not always trump state law, declined to initiate the process to reschedule marijuana and reaffirmed his commitment to granting clemency to low-level nonviolent drug offenders with unduly harsh sentences.

Under questioning by Rep. Jason Smith (R-Missouri), who asked the Attorney General whether federal law trumps state law when the two are in conflict, Holder said that while federal law is supreme in many matters, it is “an interesting question” whether the federal government can force a state to criminalize a particular behavior.

“I am hopeful that as public opinion continues to shift in favor of marijuana reform, the White House will one day have the courage to take a larger role in the push to legalization,” said Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) Executive Director Major Neill Franklin (Ret.). "Until then, states remain the innovators, exercising their constitutionally protected police powers to lead the charge toward sensible change that at least the administration has the good sense to follow."

U.S.: Attorney General Holder Expected to Answer Questions About Federal Marijuana Policy at Tuesday Hearing

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Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to answer questions about federal marijuana policy during a Tuesday hearing of the House Judiciary Committee regarding Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice. Holder will be providing testimony regarding various Obama administration enforcement policies.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET in Room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), will be available for comment immediately following the hearing.

In an August 2013 memo, Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced that federal law enforcement organizations would refrain from interfering in the implementation of state laws regulating the cultivation and sale of marijuana for medical or adult use, as long as states adopt and enforce adequate regulations that address specific federal priorities.

WHAT: House Judiciary Committee hearing on Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice, at which Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to answer questions about marijuana policy during his testimony regarding Obama administration enforcement policies

WHEN: Tuesday, April 8, 10 a.m. ET

WHERE: Room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building, 45 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, D.C.

WHO: House Judiciary Committee
Attorney General Eric Holder

U.S.: Obama Administration 'Willing To Work' With Congress To Reschedule Marijuana

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Drug Policy Alliance: Rescheduling Is Small Step In Right Direction, But Wouldn’t Protect People From Being Arrested or Punished for Marijuana Possession

DPA Supports De-Scheduling Marijuana and Legally Regulating It

Attorney General Eric Holder said on Friday that the Obama Administration would be willing to work with Congress if lawmakers want to reschedule marijuana.

Re-categorizing marijuana would not legalize the drug under federal law, but it could ease restrictions on research into marijuana's medical benefits and allow marijuana businesses to take tax deductions.

“Rescheduling would be a modest step in the right direction, but would do nothing to stop marijuana arrests or prohibition-related violence,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Now that the majority of the American public supports taxing and regulating marijuana, this debate about re-scheduling is a bit antiquated and not a real solution to the failures of marijuana prohibition.”

Holder’s comments come on the heels of guidance issued by the Department of Justice that indicated the Obama Administration will not undermine state marijuana legalization provided states are responsibly regulating marijuana businesses.

U.S.: Banks Now Allowed To Work With Marijuana Businesses; Justice Dept., Treasury Dept. Announce New Guidelines

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Policy Changes Will Protect Public Safety, Honor the Will of the Voters, and Help Small Businesses

Drug Policy Alliance’s Ethan Nadelmann: White House Appears to be Working in Good Faith with Colorado and Washington’s Efforts to Responsibly Regulate Marijuana

The Obama Administration on Friday afternoon announced new guidelines that will allow banks to legally provide financial services to state-licensed marijuana businesses. Twenty states and Washington D.C. have legalized marijuana for medical use; two of those states (Colorado and Washington) recently legalized marijuana like alcohol.

Medical marijuana advocates are applauding the new memorandum giving long-awaited guidance to financial institutions. A refusal to engage in these services has plagued medical marijuana businesses for years, dating back to the Bush Administration. Businesses in states like California, Colorado, Washington, Michigan and others have been forced to deal in large amounts of cash.

Many banks have been afraid to open checking or savings accounts for legalized marijuana businesses out of fear of breaking federal law. As a result these businesses are forced to deal with large amounts of cash, creating public safety risks for employees, bystanders, and police officers.

U.S.: Democrats Rally Around Marijuana As Winning Issue For 2014

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Lawmakers across the United States are turning to relaxing the marijuana laws as a winning issue in 2014, and Democratic candidates appear to be intent on owning the cannabis issue this year.

On Tuesday, Democratic gubernatorial candidates in Texas, Maryland, and Pennsylvania all made statements supporting marijuana policy reform, reports Max Lockie at MSNBC. And in Florida, where incumbent GOP Gov. Rick Scott opposed a medical marijuana constitutional amendment but Democratic challenger Charlie Crist supports it, cannabis looms as a big factor in the race.

In Texas, Democratic candidate Wendy Davis came out in support of medical marijuana, as well as revealing openness to decriminalization in an interview with The Dallas Morning News. "I personally believe that marijuana should be allowed for," Davis said, adding she would support reducing penalties for marijuana possession.

U.S.: Banks Still Cautious About Marijuana Business Accounts

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Banking institutions say that while reassurances from Attorney General Eric Holder are nice, they are going to need more than a nod and a wink before providing banking services to marijuana businesses in states where recreational or medical cannabis is legal.

Atty. Gen. Holder made headlines last week when he said the Obama Administration plans to allow banks to make loans to or open accounts for marijuana businesses in states where they are legal, report Kate Davidson and Kevin Cirilli at Politico.com. Marijuana is still considered a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law.

Financial firms face a complex maze of anti-money-laundering rules enforced by federal bank regulators, and violations can be very risky for banks which do business with companies which are breaking federal laws.

One major problem for bankers is that the Justice Department directive isn't binding; there have been past examples of federal prosecutors who disagree with DOJ guidance ignoring its directives. If the next administration is more conservative, all the banks catering to cannabis businesses could once again be subject to federal prosecution. If a U.S. Attorney files criminal charges against a bank, it could lose its charter and be forced to close.

All this means that the risks still outweigh the rewards for banks when it comes to accepting marijuana money.

U.S.: Attorney General Holder Says Legal Marijuana Doesn't Mean Kids Will Toke Up

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Republican Senator Jeff Sessions Cites Lady Gaga As Reason Not To Legalize

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress on Wednesday that recreational marijuana legalization doesn't mean that minors will be able to toke up.

"People cannot buy alcohol I guess now until you're age... age 21, but young people can find ways to get alcohol because adults can have access to it," Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee, reports Maya Rhodan at Time. "I'm not sure that we will see the same thing here given what we have said with regard to our enforcement priorities."

The legalization of cannabis by voters in Colorado and Washington in 2012, and the rollout of implementation of the new laws, has resulted in discussion of federal marijuana policies. Cannabis remains illegal under federal law and is considered a Schedule I controlled substance, the most stringently controlled class of drugs which also includes heroin and LSD.

Holder defended the Obama Administration's policy of allowing states to go forward with marijuana legalization laws while making sure it doesn't become available to minors or move across state lines. "The distribution of marijuana to minors will... will entail a very vigorous federal response," Holder said.

U.S.: Atty. Gen. Holder Says US Will Allow Legal Marijuana Money In Banks

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Policy Changes Will Protect Public Safety, Honor the Will of the Voters, and Help Small Businesses

Drug Policy Alliance: White House Appears to be Working in Good Faith with Colorado and Washington’s efforts to Regulate Marijuana in a Responsible Way

While speaking on Thursday at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Obama Administration will soon announce policy guidance that would make it easier for banks to deal with state-legalized marijuana businesses.

Twenty states and Washington D.C., have legalized marijuana for medical use; two of those states (Colorado and Washington) recently legalized marijuana like alcohol.

Many banks have been afraid to open checking or savings accounts for legalized marijuana businesses out of fear of breaking federal law. As a result, these businesses are forced to deal with large amounts of cash, creating public safety risks for employees, bystanders, and police officers.

"You don’t want just huge amounts of cash in these places. They want to be able to use the banking system," Attorney General Eric Holder said. "There’s a public safety component to this. Huge amounts of cash—substantial amounts of cash just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited is something that would worry me, just from a law enforcement perspective."

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