Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obama on Sentencing

This thoughtful post from Sentencing Law and Policy
"Obama on Drugs: Should reformers dare to hope?"

The title of this post is the title of this piece by Jacob Solum at Reason. It is mainly focused on marijuana policies, though it ends with this notable realpolitik reminder of administrations past:

The main danger with Obama is that his history of drug use, instead of making him more open to reform, will make him anxious to show he's tough on drugs. Something like that seems to have happened with Bill Clinton, who bragged about ever-escalating drug war budgets and threatened doctors who recommended marijuana to their patients with jail, trampling the First Amendment in his rush to prove his anti-drug bona fides.

"We are going to continue to find ways within the administration to fight legalization and the notion of legalization," a key Clinton drug policy adviser said in defense of this unconstitutional policy, which ultimately was overturned by a federal appeals court. "We're against the message that [California's medical marijuana initiative] sends to children." Who was this zealous drug warrior, eager to forcibly suppress "the notion of legalization" in the name of protecting children? Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff.

For lots of reasons, I am cautiously optimistic that the coming Obama Administration will have a much, much better approach to criminal justice drug law and policy than did the Clinton Administration. Nevertheless, as this piece by Jacob Solum highlights, few persons in power inside the beltway in DC has shown significant courage or long-term insight on these political hot-button issue. That said, I will still dare to hope for real change in the coming years.

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