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.
President Obama on Wednesday commuted the sentences of 61 federal prisoners incarcerated for drug offenses. He has now commuted the sentences of 248 prisoners, more than the total commuted by the last six presidents combined.
More than one-third of the prisoners whose sentences were commuted yesterday were serving life sentences as a result of federal laws that imposed severe punishments for distributing cocaine and other drugs, The New York Times reports.
“Most of them are low-level drug offenders whose sentences would have been shorter if they were convicted under today’s laws,” Mr. Obama said Wednesday in a Facebook post. “I believe America is a nation of second chances, and with hard work, responsibility, and better choices, people can change their lives and contribute to our society.”
President Obama said Tuesday more attention is being paid to addiction as a health issue now that it is seen as an increasing threat to white communities. Speaking at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, Obama said addiction should be seen as a health issue, instead of simply a criminal problem.
“We have to be honest about this,” he said. “Part of what has made it previously difficult to emphasize treatment over the criminal justice system has to do with the fact that the populations affected in the past were viewed as or stereotypically identified as poor, minority. As a consequence, the thinking was it is often a character flaw in those individuals who live in those communities, and it’s not our problem that they’re just being locked up,” Obama said. “One of the things that’s changed in this opioids debate is a recognition that this reaches everybody.”
The White House released a plan Tuesday to improve access to drug treatment.