New York State Decriminalizes Recreational Marijuana Use
New York state this week decriminalized recreational marijuana use, Reuters reports. Possession of small amounts of marijuana will be punished with fines instead of jail time.
Soon after Attorney General Eric Holder began making changes to drug laws, the number of drug defendants charged by the federal government dropped in January to its lowest monthly level in almost 14 years, according to a new report.
The report, by Syracuse University, found there were 1,487 new drug prosecutions in January 2014, down 7.8 percent from December, and down 11.5 percent from January 2013. “The number observed during the most recent six month period appears to be the lowest seen since the end of the Reagan Administration,” the researchers noted.
The drop in prosecutions follows the launch of Holder’s “Smart on Crime” initiative, The Huffington Post reports. The initiative’s goals include prioritizing prosecution to focus on the most serious cases, reforming sentencing to eliminate unfair disparities and reduce overburdened prisons, and pursuing alternatives to incarceration for low-level, non-violent crimes.
A spokeswoman for the Justice Department, Ellen Canale, told The Huffington Post, “It makes sense to reserve the harshest sentences for the most serious drug offenders. The department’s charging policies are aimed at empowering federal prosecutors to consider the individual circumstances of each defendant in order to determine what outcome best improves public safety.”
Last week, Holder testified before the United States Sentencing Commission in favor of changing federal guidelines to reduce the average sentence for drug dealers.