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.
Twenty-two drug offenders serving time in federal prison will be freed, the White House announced Tuesday. President Obama’s decision to commute the prisoners’ sentences builds on “his commitment to address instances of unfairness in sentencing,” White House Counsel Neil Eggelston said.
Eight of the inmates had received life sentences, Bloomberg reports. Many of the 22 inmates would have already served their time under current drug laws and sentencing policies, Eggleston noted in a blog post.
In a letter sent this week to those receiving commutations, President Obama wrote that he believed in their abilities “to prove the doubters wrong.”
“Remember that you have the capacity to make good choices,” Obama wrote. “By doing so, you will affect not only your own life, but those close to you. You will also influence, through your example, the possibility that others in your circumstances get their own second chance in the future.”
The movement toward drug sentencing reform has gained bipartisan support.
In April 2014, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to reduce the base offense for criminals caught with various amounts of drugs. Last June, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the new sentencing guidelines will make the federal prison system more fair to minorities, and will reduce taxpayer costs.
In July, the commission voted to reduce terms for low-level drug traffickers who are already incarcerated. The vote would allow more than 46,000 drug offenders to be eligible for early release from prison.