Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Federal appeals Judge cites shifting views on marijuana to question mandatory minimum marijuana prosecutions
Earlier this week, in a dissenting opinion, Eighth Circuit Judge Myron Birght raised the question of whether it makes sense for the federal government to pursue mandatory minimum sentences in marijuana cases in a world where a large number of people think the drug should be legal. The legal quesiton in the case (PDF) involved application of the aggravating role enhancement for managers of drug opertions and may be of interest to those who follow federal sentencing law. Judge Bright's comments on marijuana policy follow:
I add an observation. In today’s world where several states in this country have legalized marijuana use for medical purposes and two states have even legalized its recreational use, a hard look should apply to marijuana prosecutions carrying mandatory minimum sentences as in this case. United States Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. has concluded that a new approach must be taken in federal sentencing and that we must ensure that our criminal justice system is “[t]argeting the most serious offenses” and “prosecuting the most dangerous criminals.” . . . Randy Irlmeier’s conduct is not a “most serious” offense nor is he a “most dangerous” criminal. A five-year mandatory minimum sentence for his crime is far too long. I would remand to the district court to apply the safety valve and resentence Randy Irlmeier accordingly.