Will Sessions Revive the “War on Drugs”?

After decades, it seemed there was finally a general bipartisan consensus – even if unspoken by some – that the so-called, “War on Drugs” was a failed one. Formally kicked off and coined in 1971 by President Nixon, it began with a primary focus on drug addiction treatment. However, it morphed over the next decade with the Reagan’s, “Just Say No” campaign to one of heavy-handed enforcement, including harsh minimum mandatory penalties on even low-level, non-violent drug offenders. pass it

But there was a recognition over time that this hyped enforcement did little to curb drug use, didn’t make communities safer and actually had a disproportionate impact on lower income and minority communities. In the last decade, there has been a reversing trend that once again focuses on treatment and has peeled back some of the tougher penalties for low-level drug crimes. Marijuana is now legal in most states (including Florida) for medicinal purposes and in a handful of states for recreational use and sales.

However, some are concerned that new U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions may be preparing to crack down once more. Sessions has a long history of disdain for drug use and drug users. Still, some thought it unlikely he would return to policies that had proven unpopular and ineffective. Still, some of his recent comments seem to indicate he may not back down.

According to Business Insider, Sessions blames drugs for the recent rise 3 percent rice in violent crime between 2014 and 2015. (It should be noted that crime rates are still at a historic low.) Sessions believes this uptick isn’t a typical deviation, but rather an indicator of a major sweeping trend toward rising crime. To combat it, he has outlined a campaign with three strategies:

  • Tougher criminal enforcement.
  • Increased treatment programs.
  • Better prevention (i.e., campaigns like, “Just Say No.”)

Meanwhile, numerous studies suggest this is an unwise strategy, and locking up more people for drug crimes tends only to exacerbate the problem by burdening those convicted with prison time and criminal records that make it more difficult to reintegrate back into society.

Other professors have been critical of Sessions’ outspoken support for Project Exile, which focuses on heavy punishments for those who are gun offenders, but does little to actually stop the flow of firearms into those communities in the first place. In cities where Project Exile has been enacted, researchers have opined similar rates of reduction in homicides and gun crimes would have been realized with or without the project. What that means is it didn’t actually make anyone safer.

With regard to marijuana enforcement, Sessions says he remains “intolerant” of drug use, and railed against even medical marijuana use, arguing that increased access to the drug will open the doors to riskier and more dangerous drugs. He further argued the drug was dangerous in and of itself. However, there is evidence to suggest marijuana could actually help treat opioid and heroin addiction. Sessions has not settled on whether he will keep the Cole Memo from the Obama era, which directs the U.S. Justice Department to put prosecution of marijuana businesses complying with state law on the low priority list.

Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

Jeff Sessions ‘appears intent on taking us back to the 1980s’ and the ‘War on Drugs’, March 17,2017, By Jeremy Berke, Business Insider

More Blog Entries:

Marijuana Laws May be Disparately Enforced on College Campuses, March 22, 2017, Drug Defense Attorney Blog