Since voters in Colorado and Washington approved the tax and sale of recreational marijuana in 2012, the cognitive dissonance of America’s drug penalties has become even more absurd.
America imprisons people for growing and selling marijuana, but is it still appropriate to imprison the majority of people that use, grow or sell marijuana when millions of people can now legally use, grow or sell it?
Congress voted to change federal penalties for crack cocaine in 2012 with the Fair Sentencing Act. Prior to the law’s passage, 5 grams of crack cocaine triggered the same mandatory minimum sentence as 500 grams of powder cocaine.
The repeal of federal marijuana laws could likely leave us with thousands upon thousands of federal marijuana prisoners serving sentences longer than what they’d receive in a post-marijuana-reform courtroom.
According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, in fiscal year 2013, more than 40% of all people who received life without parole sentences in federal courts were drug offenders, and 6% of those were marijuana sellers.
If Congress changes marijuana laws without allowing currently imprisoned marijuana-related offenders to seek new sentences, should this president or the next simply throw open the gates?
Federal and state legislators will eventually have to address poor drug policies and then establish a clear route to resentencing marijuana-related offenders as well as other drug offenders.