Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Holder and the War on Drugs

Jacob Sollum at Hit and Run says the choice of Eric Holder is yet another bad sign from the Obama camp when it comes to the war on drugs.

Barack Obama’s selection of Eric Holder as his attorney general is a very discouraging sign for anyone who hoped the new administration would de-escalate the war on drugs. As Dave Weigel noted earlier today, Holder pushed for stiffer marijuana penalties when he was the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and the details are strikingly at odds not only with Obama’s signals regarding marijuana but with his opposition to long sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. According to a December 1996 report in The Washington Times excerpted at TalkLeft, Holder wanted “minimum sentences of 18 months for first-time convicted drug dealers, 36 months for the second time and 72 months for every conviction thereafter.” He also wanted to “make the penalty for distribution and possession with intent to distribute marijuana a felony, punishable with up to a five-year sentence.” The D.C. Council made the latter Holder-endorsed change in 2000. Holder thought New York City’s irrational, unjust crackdown on pot smokers was a fine idea and worth emulating, saying “we have too long taken the view that what we would term to be minor crimes are not important.” His rhetoric on the seriousness of marijuana offenses was indistinguishable from that of the most zealous Republican drug warrior

On top of naming Joe Biden as his VP and Jim Ramstad head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, these are troubling signs. I hope they don’t indicate that Obama feels the need to show just how tough Democrats can be on drugs.