Sunday, April 15, 2018

Jeff Sessions: Impact on Federal Prosecutions

On May 10, 2017, AG Sessions issued a memorandum for all federal prosecutors on charging and sentencing policy. It noted in part, "First, it is a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense...the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences."  This directive has had a significant impact on cases being handled on the local level. The bottom line is that your local federal court will be incarcerating more people for longer periods of time: as if the U.S. doesn't already have the highest incarceration rates in the world.  This memo was followed by a second memo on January 4, 2018 addressing solely the prosecution of marijuana offenses. Citing the pertinent statutes, Sessions observed that these "statutes reflect Congress's determination that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that marijuana activity is a serious crime."

The very real and depressing impact of these two memos is enough to make one physically ill.  In an attempt to inject some levity into the situation, former House Speaker Boehner's recent ascendancy to the board of advisers of Acreage Holdings (a cannabis corporation operating in eleven states ) provided a great opportunity. Professor Berman did just that in a blog post entitled: " Could former House Speaker John Boehner become the first big drug dealer capitally charged by AG Jeff Sessions." The blog post is short and a fun read.  However, the more serious question is why do the punitive policies advocated by Sessions primarily apply to those without political power?