Liu Wants to Legalize Marijuana and Holder Addresses Mandatory Minimums for Low Level Nonviolent Offenders

By Charles Fisher and Randy Fisher @HHSYC

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This seems to be an interesting week in the world of drugs and criminal justice.  First Attorney General Eric Holder announced that federal prosecutors would now have more discretion in the sentencing of nonviolent drug offenders.  There are currently more than 100,000 people incarcerated in federal prisons for drug offenses,  (47%) making up nearly half of all federal prisoners.  Now Comptroller John Liu wants to legalize Marijuana, something that many have been saying for years, including the Drug Policy Alliance.  Below is a press release on what he is proposing, what are your thoughts?  If we could take drugs out of the black-market it would reduce crime and could be the first step to end the failed “War on Drugs.”

StudentLoan1The next generation has to be much smarter in their approach to solve these and other issues related to drugs and violence, which some view as a public health problem, not criminal justice.  Locking up low-level nonviolent offenders is not a solution to our nation’s drug problem.  We have the resources and technology to end the drug war at any time, believe that.  Nothing moves in this country unless the government knows and when they are ready to put an end to illegal drugs, it will be done.  But for now, there is too much profit for all involved to do something that stupid.  Do you no how many jobs will be lost if we legalize pot?  Whatever the case may be, we give the Comptroller credit for being creative.  In order to make NY a better city we need new creative ideas to address the problem because we are definitely losing the War on Drugs.


Holder Steps Up to the Plate

LegalMarijuana1“We will start by fundamentally rethinking the notion of mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes.  Some statutes that mandate inflexible sentences — regardless of the individual conduct at issue in a particular case — reduce the discretion available to prosecutors, judges, and juries,” said the former federal prosecutor.  “Because they oftentimes generate unfairly long sentences, they breed disrespect for the system.  When applied indiscriminately, they do not serve public safety.  They — and some of the enforcement priorities we have set — have had a destabilizing effect on particular communities, largely poor and of color.  And, applied inappropriately, they are ultimately counterproductive.”

AGHolder“A vicious cycle of poverty, criminality and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities,” Holder said.  “However, many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate this problem rather than alleviate it.  Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law enforcement reason.  We cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation.”

On drug sentencing, Holder said he would direct US attorneys across the country to develop specific guidelines about when to file federal charges in drug offenses. “The heaviest charges should be reserved for serious, high-level, or violent offenders”, said Holder.

Time for Congress and the AG to Help Free David Hyatt

Holder’s “Smart On Crime” plan intends to lower the federal prison population.  He will order the Justice Department to expand the federal prison compassionate release program to include “elderly inmates who did not commit violent crimes and who have served significant time on their sentences.”  Music industry veteran David Hyatt may soon be coming home after 22 years for a drug crime that someone else said he committed.  To free David Hyatt we need members of Congress to work with the ACLU to bring this brother back home to his family. We will be reaching out to Congress with the hope that they will use their influence to bring justice to the Federal Jail Cell of Mr. Hyatt, the man who co-discovered R. Kelly and played a “behind the scenes” role in the launch of many careers in the music industry.

   Below is copy of John Liu’s Press Release for the Legalization of Marijuana


Comptroller Seeks End to Wholesale Arrests of Minority Youth;

Generate More Than $400 Million Annually for Higher Education

NEW YORK, N.Y. — City Comptroller John C. Liu today proposed regulating and taxing the sale of marijuana for personal use by adults in New York City. In a report released today, the Comptroller’s office argued that the change would curb the significant social damage caused by prohibiting the substance and generate more than $400 million annually for higher education.

“New York City’s misguided war on marijuana has failed, and its enforcement has damaged far too many lives, especially in minority communities,” said Comptroller Liu. “It’s time for us to implement a responsible alternative. Regulating marijuana would keep thousands of New Yorkers out of the criminal justice system, offer relief to those suffering from a wide range of painful medical conditions, and make our streets safer by sapping the dangerous underground market that targets our children. As if that weren’t enough, it would also boost our bottom line.”

Liu proposed that the City use the revenues generated by the regulation of marijuana to reduce CUNY tuition by as much as 50 percent for New York City residents. “In this way, we’ll invest in young people’s futures, instead of ruining them,” he said. “By regulating marijuana like alcohol, New York City can minimize teens’ access to marijuana, while at the same time reducing their exposure to more dangerous drugs and taking sales out of the hands of criminals.”

Under Liu’s proposal, adults age 21 and over could possess up to one ounce of marijuana, which would be grown, processed, and sold by government-licensed businesses for recreational or medicinal purposes. A strict driving under the influence enforcement policy would be implemented concurrently, and marijuana use in public would be prohibited.

To study issues related to regulation, Liu called for the creation of an interagency task force comprised of the NYPD, Administration for Children’s Services, Department of Education, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, District Attorneys, and Department of Consumer Affairs. The task force would work with the New York State Senate and Assembly in order to pass the appropriate legislation authorizing the full implementation of the plan.

New York City’s current market for marijuana is estimated to be around $1.65 billion annually. Basing its calculations on average consumption rates and the approximate number of users among New York City residents and commuters, the Comptroller’s office estimated that taxing the sale of marijuana would generate approximately $400 million annually, of which roughly $69 million would go to the State and MTA in the form of higher sales taxes. The office calculated that the City could save another $31 million by reallocating time and resources expended by law enforcement and the judicial system on marijuana-related arrests. It did not analyze other economic benefits, such as the reduction in associated incarceration, costs of those arrested, and potential tourist-generated tax revenue. For a detailed explanation of the estimation and methodology, please view Regulating and Taxing Marijuana: The Fiscal Impact on NYC.

But the social arguments for legalizing marijuana are even more compelling, the study found. Because of stop and frisk, minority communities disproportionately bear the consequences of marijuana arrests in New York City — especially the long-term damage to opportunities for employment, post-secondary education, and housing. Combined, blacks and Hispanics make up 45 percent of marijuana users in New York City, but account for 86 percent of possession arrests.  By contrast, whites and Asians constitute 55 percent of users but only 14 percent of arrests. In 2012, 1 out of 627 white New Yorkers was arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession, compared to 1 out of 175 Hispanics and 1 out of 94 African-Americans.

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Stay tuned for Part (2) reporting on Mandatory Minimums and what the Attorney General is doing to correct the system.

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