New York federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s candidate to replace Attorney General Eric Holder, is a disappointing choice. She will set back desperately needed criminal justice reform.
If, at this point in American history, the criminal justice system needed an aggressive prosecutor at the helm, Loretta Lynch would be highly qualified. But American “justice” has become anything but just. It is time, past time, for fundamental change to our criminal justice system. Loretta Lynch, though, is a prosecutor, not a reformer. In particular, her statements at confirmation hearings about marijuana, a linchpin in criminal justice reform, are troubling.
All prosecutors have had their world view shaped and careers enhanced over the last 40 years by the aggressive war on drugs, especially marijuana. The draconian drug law passed in the 1980s and 90s tilted criminal justice policing away from actual crimes to pursuing easy arrests and prosecution of certain (usually black) people’s drug “crimes” without victims. Enhanced penalties, mandatory minimums, and asset forfeiture made it easy for prosecutors to arrest, imprison, and seize fellow citizen’s money and homes, all “accomplishments” in the careers of prosecutors. All hideously cruel and damaging to American families.
This same prosecution (or is it persecution) mindset can be found in other ex-prosecutor public officials like Alabama senator Jeff “I love the DEA” Sessions and Governor Chris “I Will Crack Down And Not Permit” Christie. Tragically, Sessions gets to set American drug policy as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Hopefully, Chris Christie will never attain the presidency and a platform for him to devastate cannabis law reform and brutalize the lives of Americans.
Unfortunately, Loretta Lynch will probably be confirmed. From her statements, she will do nothing to forward criminal justice reform, and she just may well set back some of the few positive current trends. Lynch would be the first Afro-American woman attorney general. That is great, but she arrives at her exalted position riding on the backs of Afro-Americans (and other drug war victims) she has imprisoned and impoverished. As AG, all indications suggest she will take a business as normal approach to the justice department, and ignore the need for drug policy reforms.
Lynch opposes ending criminal prohibition or even reschedule of marijuana. She says dumb things about medical marijuana, especially edibles. Yet again, President Obama has appointed an official that disagrees with him on the dangers of cannabis. The president has correctly stated that marijuana is safer than alcohol. Yet Lynch disagrees with this obvious truth:
“It would be shocking if she is actually unaware that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol. The CDC attributes tens of thousands of deaths each year to alcohol use alone, including hundreds from overdose, whereas no deaths are attributed solely to marijuana use and there’s never been a fatal overdose.” Mason Tvert
The seizure of money and property by police and prosecutors, greased by draconian drug war laws, is a mockery of the civil and property rights of Americans. Lynch also opposes asset forfeiture reform, a stance that earned her the opposition of Senator Rand Paul. Paul’s views were captured by Casey Harper of the Daily Caller:
“Loretta Lynch became famous for her Herculean confiscation of private property,” Paul, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, said at the hearing. Paul said Lynch confiscated over $100 million dollars during her time as U.S. attorney using the process of civil asset forfeiture, a process wrought with abuses.
“When questioned about civil forfeiture, Loretta Lynch seemed to be unconcerned about the need for reform,” Paul said. “I think no one who listens to these horrendous abuses of our civil liberties should be not moved to think that we really do need reform in our country.”
This writer had high hopes that President Barack Obama would accomplish drug law and criminal justice reform during his presidency. Instead, he has raised the drug war budget yet again, appointed a medical marijuana arch-enemy to head the DEA, refused to down schedule cannabis from Schedule I, and has overseen virtually no change in the prison population of this incarceration nation. And now, one of his last, most strategic appointments is poised to stall, if not reverse, criminal and drug war reform.
If not Obama, who? If not now, when?
What do YOU think of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General?