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By Dries Van Thielen
Over the last couple of days, The Libertarian Republic has reported relentlessly on the many voices who have criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ memorandum to pursue more mandatory minimums for (low-level) drug offenders. Senator Rand Paul, speaking about the memo, stated that the new drug policy will target minorities disproportionately. Columbia professor Carl Hart bluntly called AG Sessions a racist. And finally, Willie Nelson extended an olive branch out to Sessions, and invited him to smoke weed.
Paul, Leahy, and Merkley
These criticisms seem to have worked as three US Senators have reintroduced the “Justice Safety Valve Act,” which will neutralize the Sessions Doctrine. According to its initiators, Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), this legislation will give federal judges more flexibility when it comes to sentencing low-level criminals.
The language in which the bill is written clearly indicates that it is a reaction against Sessions’ dictatorial tendencies: “The court may impose a sentence below a statutory minimum if the court finds that it is necessary to do so in order to avoid violating the requirements of sub-section (a)”.
Leahy, a former prosecutor himself, could not understand Sessions’ move. He told Rolling Stone: “The idea that, we’ve got to stiffen the penalties and crime will stop, we’ve found it doesn’t work. This is extraordinarily expensive… Then, there’s less money to go to violent, serious crime.”
Scott and Massie
At the same time, Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) are reintroducing companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
In a press release Rep. Scott stated: “Attorney General Sessions’ directive to all federal prosecutors to charge the most serious offenses, including mandatory minimums, ignores the fact that mandatory minimum sentences have been studied extensively and have been found to distort rational sentencing systems, discriminate against minorities, waste money, and often require a judge to impose sentences that violate common sense. To add insult to injury, studies have shown that mandatory minimum sentences fail to reduce crime. Our bill will give discretion back to federal judges, so that they can consider all the facts, issues, and circumstances before sentencing.”
Paul urges his colleagues in the Senate to vote in favor of this necessary piece of bipartisan legislation. Even if it passes the Senate and the House, the president will have the last say. However, Paul is positive when it comes to Trump. In an interview with Reason, he said: “We could get the President to sign it”.
We will keep our fingers crossed.
In the meantime, former mandatory minimum victim Weldon Angelos has launched a petition you can sign here. Authorities arrested Angelos for selling small amounts of marijuana to an informant – supposedly while armed. He was sentenced to 55 years (of which he served 13). He’s only released from jail because bipartisan advocates and his own prosecutor agreed to drop the charges. He urges Sessions to no longer uphold harsh mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenders.