President Obama is planning on nominating the current director of the ACLU’s Center for Justice, Vanita Gupta, to head up the civil rights sector of the Department of Justice.
Gupta has received wide praise from both political parties for her work with civil rights. A large amount of her focus has and will remain on the war on drugs and how it effects minorities in America. She stated in 2011 that, “the war on drugs has been a war on communities of color.”
She has also openly defended mandatory minimum sentencing laws in regards to drug charges. She says that, “This country has spent 40 years relentlessly ratcheting up the number of people going to prison and dramatically expanding the time we hold them there. We’ve spent decades criminalizing people with drug dependency, passing extreme sentencing laws, and waging a war on drugs that has not diminished drug use.”
In the early 2000s Gupta spent time defending black men who were wrongfully charged with minor drug offenses in Texas. She has also worked towards ending police incentives to arrest bystanders for minimal amounts of personal-use marijuana.
Most importantly, Gupta strongly supports marijuana decriminalization and legalization at a state level. She was quoted in an op-ed for CNN this year as saying, “states could follow Colorado and Washington by taxing and regulating marijuana and investing saved enforcement dollars in education, substance abuse treatment, and prevention and other health care.”
Marijuana advocates are extremely pleased with the nod to Gupta. A spokesman with the advocacy group, Marijuana Majority, said that, “Hopefully she can convince the next attorney general to initiate the process of rescheduling marijuana under federal law.”