Calling it an issue America can’t afford to ignore, President Barack Obama laid out an expansive vision for fixing the criminal justice system. “In far too many cases, the punishment simply doesn’t fit the crime,” Obama told a crowd of 3,300 in Philadelphia. Low-level drug dealers, for example, owe a debt to society, but not a life sentence or 20-year prison term, he said. The United States needed to reevaluate an “aspect of American life that remains particularly skewed by race and by wealth.” Working in Obama’s favor: tentative but optimistic signs of common ground between Republicans and Democrats. (See also: President Obama for the prisoners)
The nation's top medical organization released a major series of papers on medical cannabis last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, in a move that constitutes a small step for the AMA, but a giant leap in cannabis medical history.
Up and down the Western Hemisphere, marijuana policy is a growing topic of discussion, and laws are starting to change. In 2014, retail marijuana stores opened in the states of Colorado and Washington, where anyone over 21 years old can purchase a wide variety of marijuana products.
Legalising the medical use of cannabis has not led to a surge in the numbers of adolescents using it in the USA, according to new research that surprised its authors and will encourage those hoping for relaxation of the law elsewhere.
In their op-ed article against cannabis legalization, former drug czar William J. Bennett and Seth Leibsohn yearn for a time when fear-mongering, not facts, drove the marijuana policy debate in America.
Dozens of government officials and researchers from a half-dozen U.S. states and a few countries that have legalized marijuana or are at least thinking about it are gathering in Washington state this week for meetings focused largely on one question: How do we know if it’s working? Organizers say it’s crucial to get a better handle on what data are being collected about the impacts of legalization and to consider what further research is needed.
Drug courts celebrated their 25th anniversary last year. Hailed as the most compassionate way for the criminal justice system to deal with addicts, drug courts were designed to balance punishment with rehabilitation. Many drug court judges oppose opioid maintenance and require patients to become completely abstinent as a condition of participation or graduation. They believe that maintenance simply amounts to swapping one drug addiction for another. This critique betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of opioid pharmacology and addictive behavior.
The government of Colombia rejected a major tool in the American-backed antidrug campaign — ordering a halt to the aerial spraying of the country’s vast illegal plantings of coca, the crop used to make cocaine, citing concerns that the spray causes cancer. The decision ends a program that has continued for more than two decades, raising questions about the viability of long-accepted strategies in the war on drugs in the region.
Propelled by successful campaigns in Western states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, some advocates and legislators say a marijuana legalization race is developing in New England, with millions of dollars in tax revenue riding on the outcome.
California lawmakers are wading into the politically sticky issue of regulating medical marijuana, laying groundwork for state control of the sale and cultivation of cannabis with the expectation that voters will legalize recreational use next year.
In recent years, federal sentencing guidelines have been revised, resulting in less severe prison terms for low-level drug offenders. But tens of thousands of inmates who were convicted in the "war on drugs" of the 1980s and 1990s are still behind bars. Harsh sentencing policies, including mandatory minimums, continue to have lasting consequences for inmates and the nation’s prison system. Today, prisoners 50 and older represent the fastest-growing population in crowded federal correctional facilities, their ranks having swelled by 25 percent to nearly 31,000 from 2009 to 2013.
As the world prepares for the 2016 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS 2016), an increasing number of countries around the world now find the regime’s emphasis on punitive approaches to illicit drugs to be problematic and are asking for reform. In this moment of global disagreement, the Brookings project on Improving Global Drug Policy provides a unique comparative evaluation of the effectiveness and costs of international counternarcotics policies and best approaches to reform.
For more than two decades, the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as 116 countries linked to drug trafficking. The Justice Department revealed in January that the DEA had collected data about calls to "designated foreign countries." The now-discontinued operation, carried out by the DEA's intelligence arm, was the government's first known effort to gather data on Americans in bulk, sweeping up records of telephone calls made by millions of U.S. citizens regardless of whether they were suspected of a crime.