michael collins

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U.S.: President Obama Commutes Drug Sentences For 22 People

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

President Barack Obama on Tuesday commuted the sentences of 22 federal inmates convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. This follows the commutation of eight federal inmates convicted of drug offenses by President Obama in December of 2014.

According to White House counsel Neil Eggleston, “Had they been sentenced under current laws and policies, many of these individuals would have already served their time and paid their debt to society. Because many were convicted under an outdated sentencing regime, they served years — in some cases more than a decade — longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime."

"While today’s announcement represents important progress, there’s more work ahead," Eggleston said. "The Administration will continue to work to review thoroughly all petitions for clemency."

Last year, Attorney General Eric Holder made a number of forceful public statements against mass incarceration in the U.S., promising significant rollback of mandatory minimum and harsh sentencing guidelines. The Obama Administration also promised improvements in the commutation process.

Yet, despite his Administration's declared support of substantive criminal justice reform, until now Obama has used his power to grant clemency less frequently than nearly all other U.S. Presidents.

U.S.: Broad Coalition Calls For Real Reform From Congress To End Mass Incarceration

EndMassIncarceration

Letter Sent to Congressional Judiciary Leadership on Key Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

Legislation Should Address Prison Overcrowding, Unsustainable Costs, and Racial Disparities

Amidst a flurry of legislative activity on criminal justice reform, a broad coalition of groups, representing faith leaders, criminal justice reform and civil and human rights advocates, have united to release a statement of principles on what criminal justice reform legislation in the 114th Congress should include.

The organizations – including the United Methodist Church, NAACP, ACLU, Human Rights Watch, the Drug Policy Alliance, and dozens of other organizations – believe that for legislation to have any real impact, it should tackle the primary problems in our federal prison system, namely dangerous overcrowding, unsustainable costs, and unwarranted racial disparities.

In the letter, the groups urge House and Senate Judiciary Chairs Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to build on the current bipartisan momentum around criminal justice reform and embrace the following principles:

• Restore proportionality to drug sentencing
• Promote and adequately fund recidivism reduction and reentry programming
• Make sentencing reductions retroactive
• Expand BOP’s Compassionate Release Program
• Expand time credits for good behavior

U.S.: Congress Moving To Block DC Marijuana Legalization

GOPvsMarijuana

Provisions in Must-Pass Spending Bill Would Overturn the Will of D.C. Voters

Civil Rights and Racial Justice Groups Send Open Letter to Democratic Leadership Encouraging Them to Stand Up for D.C. Voters

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Media sources are reporting that members of Congress are negotiating provisions to a government funding bill that would block the nation’s capital in its efforts to legalize marijuana. Initiative 71 passed in Nov. 4, with 70 percent of voters approving the measure to legalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use.

Some Members of Congress, realizing their colleagues wouldn't support blocking the initiative directly, undermining home rule and the will of a majority of Americans, have instead included language blocking thye measure in the spending bill, which can limit the federal funds D.C. receives.

The language has been included in a must-pass funding bill that Congress will likely vote on later this week.

“Democratic leadership made it clear they would stand with voters on this crucial racial justice issue, and push back against Republican opposition to the D.C. law,” said Michael Collins, policy manager at Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “Democrats have always made claims of supporting D.C. home rule now is their chance to stand with 70 percent of voters in the District who voted for marijuana reform,” Collins said.

U.S.: Bipartisan Bill Introduced To Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement

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Reps. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Raul Labrador (R-ID) Propose Legislation to Reform Pentagon Military Transfer Program that Fuels the Drug War

Legislation is a Response to Alarming Images of Militarized Law Enforcement in Ferguson and other parts of the Country

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Reps. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and Raul Labrador (R-ID) on Tuesday introduced legislation to reform the Pentagon program which transfers military equipment to law enforcement. The program has come under increased scrutiny from lawmakers after images from Ferguson, Missouri, showed law enforcement dressed like combat soldiers, using military equipment to deal with protestors.

The Pentagon program has its roots in the Drug War, coming to fruition in the early 90s as the U.S. government militarized its approach to drug policy. Just last week, Senators held a hearing on the issue of militarization in our law enforcement, where they critical of the Pentagon program.

U.S.: Major Drug War Hearings In Congress This Week

NoMoreDrugWar

House Holds Hearing on Defense Department and State Department Drug War Activities, Senate Holds DEA Oversight Hearing

Hearings Come Amid Huge Domestic Drug Policy Reforms on Sentencing and Marijuana

This week, both chambers of Congress will hold major hearings on the Drug War.

On Tuesday, April 29, at 10 a.m., there will be joint subcommittee hearing entitled “Confronting Transnational Drug Smuggling: An Assessment of Regional Partnerships,” held by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure's Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. These Committees will hear from General John F. Kelly, USMC Commander of Southern Command, at the Department of Defense, and Luis E. Arreaga Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, at the Department of State.

Then on Wednesday, April 30, at 10 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Oversight of the Drug Enforcement Administration”. The sole witness is the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.

The hearings come against a backdrop of huge domestic change with respect to the Drug War. In the past year, Attorney General Eric Holder has made a number of forceful public statements against mass incarceration in the U.S., promising significant rollback of mandatory minimums and harsh sentencing guidelines.

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