Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform Bill Passes U.S Senate Judiciary Committee

criminal justice reformThe U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted 15 to 5 today to pass the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, expand early release programs and expand the federal “safety valve”, (which gives judges discretion to give an individual a sentence lower than the mandatory minimum).

“This vote today is a huge step toward ending the failed policies of the war on drugs,” says Michael Collins, Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “To see Republicans and Democrats join hands to pass this bill gives me great hope we’ll have legislation on the President’s desk very soon.”

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Leaked United Nations Paper Calls for Decriminalizing Drug Use and Possession

By Drug Policy Alliance

united nations drug war reportDrug Decriminalization Rapidly Emerging as Consensus Goal of Drug Policy, Public Safety and Health Stakeholders as 2016 UN Special Session on Drugs Approaches

Momentum Accelerating in the U.S. and Abroad Toward Drug Policy Reforms: Marijuana Legalization, Drug Decriminalization, and Ending Mass Incarceration

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) appeared set to call on governments to end the criminalization of drug use and possession, according to DPA Honorary Board Member Richard Branson – but in a dramatic turn of events withdrew a briefing paper under pressure from at least one country, according to the BBC.

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6,000 Federal Drug Offenders to be Released Early on November 1st

By Drug Policy Alliance

opencuffsStarting November 1, 6,000 federal prisoners are to be released from federal prison, a move that is the result of changes made by the U.S. Sentencing Commission last year that lowered federal sentencing guidelines for people convicted under draconian drug war-era laws.

“It warms my heart to hear that 6,000 people will be coming home,” said Anthony Papa, manager of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance, who spent 12 years behind bars on a mandatory minimum drug sentence. “The drug war has devastated families and communities and it is time for the healing to begin.”

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Senate Reaches Deal to Reduce Prison Population and Reform Mandatory Minimums

By Drug Policy Alliance

cuffsCriminal Justice Legislation Lowers Drug Sentences, Increases Early Release and Returns Some Discretion to Judges

Bipartisan Compromise Bill Backed by Top Democrats And Republicans Amid Public Demands to End Mass Incarceration

Today, a bipartisan group of Senators announced a historic deal on criminal justice reform, rounding out a negotiation process that has lasted almost five months. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, spearheaded by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), will involve reductions in mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, an expansion of the federal “safety valve” (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and will expand reentry programming and early release, among other things.

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President Obama Grants Clemency to 14 Individuals Serving Life in Prison for Drugs

By Drug Policy Alliance

President Obama announcing in a video that he's commuted 46 sentences.
President Obama announcing in a video that he’s commuted 46 sentences.

Today, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 46 people incarcerated in federal prison. This follows the commutation of eight people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses in December of 2014, and 22 in March 2015. Fourteen of the people who received commutations today were serving life in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.

In taking this step, the President has now issued nearly 90 commutations, the vast majority of them to non-violent offenders sentenced for drug law violations under draconian sentencing laws. President Obama has been under significant public pressure from advocacy groups and family members of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses who are serving long, mandatory minimum sentences.

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President Obama Selects Chuck Rosenberg to Head DEA

By Drug Policy Alliance

DEA Increasingly Scrutinized as States Legalize Marijuana and Public Opinion Turns Against Failed Drug War

Chuck Rosenberg.
Chuck Rosenberg.

A senior F.B.I. official and former U.S. attorney, Chuck Rosenberg, has been selected by President Obama as acting director of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Rosenberg has served as the chief of staff to the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, for the past 18 months.

Outgoing DEA head Michele Leonhart announced her retirement last month in the wake of numerous scandals. She came under intense criticism for opposing the Obama administration’s efforts to reform mandatory minimum sentencing laws, and for opposing the administration’s hands-off approach in the four states that have approved legal regulation of marijuana.

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DEA Administrator Chief Michele Leonhart Expected to Resign

By Drug Policy Alliance

Michele Leonhart (Photo: Reuters).
Michele Leonhart (Photo: Reuters).

Resignation Comes as DEA at Center of Series of Scandals in its Effort to Continue Failed War on Drugs

After Decades of Mass Incarceration, Racial Disparities, and Failed Drug Policies, DEA Finally Facing Scrutiny

New DPA Issue Brief Released Today: The Scandal-Ridden DEA: Everything You Need to Know

A senior White House official has said that the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Michele Leonhart, is expected to resign soon. The news comes as no surprise to drug policy reformers who say her opposition to reform made her out of step with the Obama Administration.

Read moreDEA Administrator Chief Michele Leonhart Expected to Resign

New York Department of Health Issues Final Medical Cannabis Regulations

By Drug Policy Alliance

New York State Officials Ignore Patients, Providers and Industry Experts to Instead Pursue One of the Nation’s Most Unworkable Medical Marijuana Programs

ALBANY, NYnewjersey — Late Tuesday, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) released the final regulations for New York’s medical marijuana program. The announcement followed a period of public comment in which patients, families, experts, and industry professionals submitted more than a thousand letters and emails critiquing the proposed regulations for being too restrictive and unworkable.

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DNC Chair Offers to Support Medical Cannabis if Donor Retracts Negative Comments, Donor Refuses

Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office offered to officialy change her position on medical cannabis and endorse an initiative to legalize the medicine in Florida if a major donor and former Obama fundraiser recanted his criticism of her, according to emails obtained by POLITICO.

“The proposal to Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan was straightforward: retract critical statements he made to a reporter in return for Wasserman Schultz publicly backing his cannabis initiative that she had trashed just months earlier” says POLITICO’s Marc Caputo. “Morgan declined the offer with a sharp email reply sent to a go-between, who described the congresswoman as being in a “tizzy.”

Read moreDNC Chair Offers to Support Medical Cannabis if Donor Retracts Negative Comments, Donor Refuses