SAM applauds DOJ, U.S. Sentencing Commission call to reduce sentences for some drug offenders

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Justice Department’s support for a reduction in sentences for nonviolent drug offenders is a step in the right direction — and one that shows marijuana legalization is unnecessary to reform any problematic drug laws, says Smart Approaches to Marijuana (Project SAM), a national, volunteer nonprofit co-founded by former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy.

The DOJ’s support for the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s proposal, announced Tuesday, is, so far, consistent with the stance supported by SAM.

“The DOJ’s admirable and important first steps are evidence that our country can — and should — reform drug laws without compromising public health and safety,” Mr. Kennedy said. “The United States needs health-first approaches to drug policies that make prevention and treatment of drug use and abuse a priority.”

The DOJ reports that as many as 20,000 federal prisoners — or up to 9 percent of the federal prison system’s population of about 217,000 people — could see their sentences shortened. Though no one is serving time in federal prison for smoking marijuana — and less than 1% of state prisoners are imprisoned for smoking marijuana — these moves are important to ensure fairness in our criminal justice system.

“Our criminal justice system should be focused on swift, certain, and modest sanctions,” said Kevin A. Sabet, Executive Director of SAM. “Drug offenders with an underlying addiction should be offered treatment and diverted to programs like HOPE and drug treatment courts. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.”

Project SAM, has four main goals:

• To inform public policy with the science of today’s marijuana.

• To prevent the establishment of “Big Marijuana” — and a 21st-Century tobacco industry that would market marijuana to children.

• To promote research of marijuana’s medical properties and produce, non-smoked, non-psychoactive pharmacy-attainable medications.

• To have an adult conversation about reducing the unintended consequences of current marijuana policies, such as lifelong stigma due to arrest.

About Project SAM

Project SAM is a nonpartisan alliance of lawmakers, scientists and other concerned citizens who want to move beyond simplistic discussions of “incarceration versus legalization” when discussing marijuana use and instead focus on practical changes in marijuana policy that neither demonizes users nor legalizes the drug. Project SAM has affiliates in twenty-five states, including Georgia, New York, California, Colorado, Vermont, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Missouri, and other jurisdictions.