Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Interesting comment on marijuana legalization in notable new federal sentencing opinion

Doug blogged over at SL&P last Friday about a notable district court opinion on federal drug sentencing.  In the lengthy opinion, Judge James Browning makes an argument in defense of the federal drug sentencing guidelines (responding in large part to an opinion by Judge Gleeson taking the other side.)

Though the case involves methamphetamine, Judge Browning makes an interesting comment about marijuana legalization in a footnote (footnote 23):  

This observation seems particularly true in light of the DOJ’s recent policy announcement not to spend its resources going after the marijuana dealers and growers who are acting consistent with Colorado’s new marijuana laws.  This decision not to prosecute wealthy large-scale Anglo distributors in Colorado--on New Mexico’s northern border--calls into question whether the Court should mete out large sentences to poor backpackers from Mexico--on New Mexico’s southern border--bussing over bundles of marijuana. 

The bservation reminds me of concerns raised by Michelle Alexander last month about legalizaiton and racial disparity, arguing that white men are getting rich while black men stay in prison.   And, of course, it also echoes the concerns some Latin American leaders have also expressed about fighting a war to keep marijuana out of the United States when it is now legal to use and sell the substance in Colorado and Washington.

Federal court rulings, Federal Marijuana Laws, Policies and Practices | Permalink


I would like to hear some discussion over the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington as it relates to lawyers, federal employees and other professionals who have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States. Since marijuana is still a controlled substance under federal law, whose use and possession is a criminal offense, how can these conflicting positions be reconciled? Since when has it become the prerogative of the states to ignore federal law and instead impose their own standards of justice? How can the aforementioned groups reconcile this with their oath? I am amazed that there hasn't been more discussion on this subject.

Posted by: Jim Davis | Apr 10, 2014 1:11:27 PM

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