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Senator Wants Jeff Sessions To Meet With Drug War Victims



A prominent Democratic senator who many observers believe will run for president in 2020 is demanding that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions sit face-to-face with her constituents who have been arrested for marijuana or otherwise caught up in the war on drugs.

“I am requesting a meeting with individuals and myself whose lives have been irreparably harmed because of non-violent marijuana arrests,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wrote in a letter to Sessions on Sunday. “The effects of these arrests and convictions last a lifetime. Men and women who were incarcerated are unable to vote, do not qualify for public housing, and have difficulty finding employment. The stigma associated with these arrests stifles future opportunities for a generation of black Americans. While this country cannot erase die damage caused by 40 years of policies designed to target black Americans, we can implement new policies that will reverse some of their harsh consequences.”

She also held a press conference in New York to discuss the issue with local advocates, including a state senator who has filed a marijuana legalization bill.

“Our justice system is failing to protect far too many men and women of color, and the reality is that my 14-year-old son would likely be treated very differently from one of his Black or Latino peers if he was caught with marijuana,” Gillibrand said in a press release. “Attorney General Sessions needs to hear directly from New Yorkers who have suffered because of the failed war on drugs, and he should end the Justice Department directives that encourage law enforcement to waste their resources going after people for low-level, non-violent marijuana possession, because that’s not making our neighborhoods any safer. It’s time for the United States to legalize the possession of marijuana, and I urge all New Yorkers to raise their voices and join me in this fight to fix our justice system.”

“It is an American principle that, no matter the law, it should be applied equally to all people, regardless of their race or background,” Gillibrand wrote in the letter to Sessions. “Sadly, as you will hear from my constituents, for decades, the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ has not been pursued with equality. A young white man at college who is caught with a small amount of marijuana has almost no risk of being arrested or prosecuted for marijuana possession, while a young black man in the same situation has a much higher risk. This is not just a theory; the data collected over the last 40 years have borne this out.”

Earlier this year, Gillibrand called out pharmaceutical companies for opposing marijuana legalization for profit reasons.

Senator Calls Out Big Pharma For Opposing Legal Marijuana

She is a cosponsor of far-reaching Senate legislation to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and withhold federal funding from states that have racially disproportionate enforcement of cannabis laws.

See the video of Gillibrand’s press conference below:

Photo courtesy of personaldemocracy.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.


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