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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Big Picture: adjusting the war on drugs?

While this blog is primarily devoted to the policy of using criminal informants, the significance of snitching is deeply connected to drug enforcement. It is largely because drug offenses constitute so much of our criminal system--around 30 percent of state felony convictions among other things--that snitching is such a pervasive phenomenon. Accordingly, big shifts in drug enforcement are big snitching news. The U.S. Department of Justice announced yesterday that it will no longer prosecute medical marijuana users and distributors in the 14 states that have legalized medical marijuana, as long as those users/producers obey state law. New York Times story here. This step represents an important repudiation of the punitive, enforcement-by-any-means-and-at-all costs rhetoric of the past twenty years of federal drug enforcement. Over the summer, writer/journalist Sasha Abramsky predicted in an article in the Nation that "the nation may soon see a gradual backpedaling from the criminal justice policies that have led to wholesale incarceration in recent decades." Monday's announcement might be evidence of just such backpedaling.