Throughout the criminal justice system, people of color have traditionally been arrested more often, charged more harshly, given less access to bail, convicted at greater rates and sentenced to longer than their white peers. This has certainly carried through to drug enforcement.
"We are ending the 50-year-long war on cannabis," said Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said in a statement recently. The state has just legalized the possession of marijuana for personal recreational use. Medical marijuana is also legal in Illinois.
If you're traveling by train and a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent asks to search your bags, you have the right to refuse. Law enforcement only has the right to search you or your belongings if they have probable cause to believe you are committing a crime. Most of the time, when officers ask for your consent to search, they do not have probable cause.
"These sting operations have used tremendous public resources to investigate and prosecute a large number of principally minority individuals for fictitious crimes," wrote the 7th Circuit's chief U.S. district court judge in a 73-page ruling.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced recently that federal prosecutors don't have the resources to focus on minor marijuana violations such as possession, although the cases could still be prosecuted under state law. This adds a bit of clarity to federal marijuana policy after Sessions reversed an Obama-era policy that had urged U.S. attorneys to avoid such cases.
This blog has previously discussed the possibility that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was about to crack down on marijuana offenses.
In a highly unusual move, a nine-judge panel of district judges from around the 7th Circuit is hearing arguments on whether certain drug sting operations run since the 90s by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were racially discriminatory.
The opioid crisis continues to be a challenge, both from a public health and from a criminal justice perspective. Last week, President Trump's commission on the opioid crisis called for several new measures to deal with the worst drug crisis in American history.
On July 27, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin sent an open records request to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. It was seeking reports on the operations of the state crime lab and whether there continue to be backlogs in processing evidence. Hours after the request was filed, Attorney General Brad Schimel announced that he would authorize overtime and create 11 part-time positions to help law enforcement collect DNA samples and other evidence.
Observers on Capitol Hill believe Attorney General Jeff Sessions may be about to lay down the law on marijuana users, reversing popular policies put in place by the Obama Administration. Moreover, the reason for the change is almost as surprising as the potential policy change.