Feds Apply Drug Reforms to Pending Charges, Order Some Cases Refiled

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The Obama administration has announced another step in its plans to de-escalate the federal drug war. Last month Attorney General Eric Holder unveiled plans for the federal government to stop prosecuting low-level drug crimes, and last Thursday he announced that those changes would apply retroactively to pending cases.

According to the New York Times, the Attorney General sent a memo directing all U.S. Attorneys to stop writing the quantity of drugs in charging documents if a defendant meets four criteria:

  • Did not involve violence, weapons, or sales to minors;
  • Does not lead a criminal organization;
  • Is not involved in organized crime; and
  • Has no significant criminal history.

Praising the administration for its "speed and specificity" on sentencing reform in the past month, one of the nation's largest reform groups called it a huge step forward. "This looks like a major good faith effort to reform federal drug sentencing laws as much as possible given the constraints of federal law and judicial prerogative over sentencing,” says Ethan Nadelmann from Drug Policy Alliance.

The feds still haven't specifically mentioned the litany of medical cannabis cases prosecuted by the federal government, and whether these changes will curb the medical cannabis witch hunts from some of their pot-hating prosecutors, but the move is widely seen as a positive step by a war-soaked administration to disengage its personnel from a contentious front it is fighting at home.