Senator Kamala Harris, former California Attorney General, called out AG Jeff Sessions for reviving the disastrous war on drugs and taking us back to the “Dark Ages.”
It’s painfully obvious that Sessions stands alone with his bizarre vendetta against marijuana, but that unfortunately hasn’t seemed to deter him from attacking the plant in full force. Earlier this month, Sessions directed federal prosecutors to dole out the most aggressive penalties possible to low-level drug offenders, which includes mandatory minimum sentences for cannabis possession.
We’ve seen this approach fail before. Reagan’s war on drugs, which was actually born under the Nixon administration but gained traction during Reagan’s term when crack-cocaine use was on the rise. Not to mention the fact that Nancy Reagan’s “just say no” campaign, was an epic failure. And while the message behind it is one we can all agree on—hard drugs cause problems and people shouldn’t use them—the approach to aggressively arrest and prosecute users did little more than target minority communities and inundate our prison system.
The United States has more citizens incarcerated than any other country in the world, and nearly 30% of those sitting in a prison cell are there for marijuana, many of them possessing just a small amount for personal use. But regarding drug use, what has changed since the 80s? Virtually nothing. We’re still in the grips of a dangerous drug epidemic, with heroin being the new monster of our decade. It wasn’t until the Obama administration that the focus began shifting from prosecution to rehabilitation.
Unfortunately, the current administration is ready to not only unravel everything the former president has done to curb addiction, but they’ve also recently announced a plan to strip 94% of funds from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which is tasked to help fight drug abuse. This is all despite Trump having pledged to fight opioid abuse during his entire campaign. If Sessions has his way, our prisons will be filling up quickly with non-violent, marijuana users, amongst people who use much more dangerous substances.
Luckily, rational people don’t agree with his policies, and senators and lawmakers from all over the country are protesting Sessions’ incessant reefer-madness. Most recently, he was publicly criticized by California Democratic Senator Kamala Harris.
Harris’ recent statement on the topic lambasted Sessions. “This administration and Jeff Sessions want to take us back to the Dark Ages. Sessions has threatened that the United States Department of Justice may renew its focus on marijuana use; even in states like California where it is legal. What California needs is support in dealing with trans-national criminal organizations, dealing with issues like human trafficking; not going after grandma’s medicinal marijuana. Leave her alone. Instead of addressing the core issues of addiction and getting folks into treatment, we’re going to overcrowd and build new prisons. That is not justice. That is not smart on crime. And I believe we have to stop this.”
Prior to becoming a State Senator earlier this year, Harris served as District Attorney of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011, and 32nd State Attorney General from 2011 to 2017. For years she’s advocated on behalf of low-level criminal offenders, stating that the war on drugs has been ineffective and they should not be incarcerated. As part of her mission, she launched “Open Justice“, an online database that archives California arrest statistics and in-custody deaths for the last nine years. During her tenure, Kamala Harris was outspoken in her support to reform the criminal justice system.