Mandatory sentencing for drug crimes and the decriminalization of marijuana have been hot topics recently. Earlier this month U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told the American Bar Association he wants to “fundamentally rethink” mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes. According to the Associated Press, Holder “instructed federal prosecutors to stop charging many nonviolent drug defendants with offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences.”
Some of these sentencing guidelines have been on the books since the 1980s as a cornerstone to the war on drugs. Now many, including Holder, blame these rules for what they say is the needless incarceration of hundreds of thousands of people, resulting in a severe strain on criminal justice budgets and significant overcrowding in federal prisons.
In June, the American Civil Liberties Union issued a report that called for states to legalize marijuana, license and regulate its production and distribution, and tax sales. The organization says enforcement of marijuana possession laws wastes billions of taxpayers’ dollars.
Even Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has jumped into the debate. He joined Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy in March to introduce legislation to give federal judges more discretion in sentencing criminals where mandatory minimums may be unnecessary. One commentator says this is the second time Paul has outflanked the Obama Administration on the left.
These developments framed the discussion on Monday’s edition of Kentucky Tonight. Our guests were Cherie Dawson-Edwards, Associate Professor in the University of Louisville Department of Justice Administration and past president of the ACLU of Kentucky; Fayette County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Larson; Kentucky Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown; and Commonwealth’s Attorney Matthew Leveridge, who serves Russell and Wayne Counties.
Kentucky Tonight will be pre-empted next week. Instead we’ll air the special On Deadline: American Newspapers in the Digital Age, hosted by veteran journalist Marvin Kalb. If you care about the future of journalism and your morning paper, be sure to tune in Monday at 8 p.m.
Have a safe Labor Day weekend.