When it comes to the always controversial issue of marijuana, Illinois has recently taken some actions that could be described as progressive from decriminalizing possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana to launching a pilot program permitting the sale of medical marijuana to those with one of 40 debilitating diseases.
While people might have missed it, the U.S. Sentencing Commission -- the independent federal agency tasked with creating sentencing policies for the federal courts, advising Congress and the executive branch on effective crime policy, and analyzing federal crime and sentencing issues -- released a rather eye-opening report a few weeks back.
During the chaos of the holiday season, many people might have missed what turned out to be a significant announcement by the Drug Enforcement Administration concerning marijuana extracts, including cannabidiol, or CBD.
Thanks to a significant amount of news coverage, most people are now well aware that even though many states -- Illinois included -- have adopted what could best be described as a progressive approach to marijuana, it nevertheless remains illegal under federal law.
You don't have to be a constitutional law scholar to know that law enforcement officials couldn't legally conduct a search of hundreds of homes in an attempt to uncover evidence of some suspected criminal activity. Indeed, as ridiculous as this premise may sound, it was actually playing out in one Texas town, albeit to transit passengers, where police officers were essentially using a local gas station as a checkpoint to conduct random drug searches of passenger buses traveling through the area.
In a recent post, our blog discussed how President Obama made history back in August by granting 325 commutations to federal inmates convicted of nonviolent drug crimes, a truly remarkable figure representing the single largest number of sentence reductions ever handed down in a single month by a U.S. president.
As we've discussed at length on our blog, the draconian mandatory minimum sentencing scheme for federal drug crimes introduced back in the 1980s has long been derided as unduly punitive and exceedingly expensive, sentencing those convicted of nonviolent drug crimes to prison for life or what amounts to life.
In our post last week, we discussed how the federal government affirmed its commitment to treating marijuana as an illegal narcotic with the Drug Enforcement Administration's recent announcement that the drug would continue to be classified under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.
At the moment, an astounding 42 states permit residents to use medical marijuana in some capacity, while nearly half the states have passed laws decriminalizing the possession of a small amount of marijuana. Indeed, Illinois enacted just such a measure a few weeks back, such that possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana is no longer punishable by up to six months in jail and up to $1,500 in fines, but rather a fine of $100 to $200.
In a series of ongoing posts, our blog has been exploring how the federal courts treat drug charges in an attempt to help people better understand how this seemingly arcane and often unforgiving criminal justice system works.