Eye on the Courts: Obama’s Turn on Mass Incarceration and Social Justice Issues


As I have stated many times on this site, I was expecting a lot more of President Obama on issues of race and mass incarceration than what we got in his first term to term and a half of office. We have seen glimpses of it before.

We saw a glimpse with the shooting of Trayvon Martin when he said, “When Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son.  Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.  And when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.

“There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store.  That includes me.  There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars.  That happened to me — at least before I was a senator.”

We saw it this week when visiting the El Reno Federal Prison, as he said, “When they describe their youth and their childhood, these are young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different than the mistakes I made and the mistakes that a lot of you guys made.”

But these comments were not policy statements. And so when he addressed the NAACP and talked about mass incarceration it was different. He called out the problem: “Over the last few decades, we’ve also locked up more and more nonviolent drug offenders than ever before, for longer than ever before.”

He said, “That is the real reason our prison population is so high.  In far too many cases, the punishment simply does not fit the crime.”

This is an argument we have been making for some time. Mr. Obama did not go as far as we might have calling for legalization or decriminalization of drugs. But he called for clear reform.

He said, “If you’re a low-level drug dealer, or you violate your parole, you owe some debt to society.  You have to be held accountable and make amends.  But you don’t owe 20 years.  You don’t owe a life sentence.  That’s disproportionate to the price that should be paid.”

Perhaps this is a moment when, free from the confining bounds of politics, the President felt free to speak more freely. We saw the President move with the rest of the country on gay marriage as well. Or perhaps what he has seen in the last few years has truly transformed his thinking.

Author Michelle Alexander, who has been pushing this debate for some time, and coined the phrase “The New Jim Crow” to describe the oppressive effects of our incarceration practices, pointed out, “This is not the story of a heroic president demonstrating moral courage or the story of a bipartisan awakening to the dignity and value of poor people and people of color locked in cages. No. This is not that story at all. There was precisely zero political risk in what Obama and Clinton said to the NAACP this week. And Obama’s prison visit, while symbolically important, posed zero political risk.”

While she makes an accurate point, the importance of the President jumping on board should not simply be dismissed – especially if it results in real change.

President Obama may not stop there. Last week, Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., a law professor at Harvard University and prominent death penalty opponent who taught the President and First Lady Michelle Obama when both were students there, told the Washington Post that the President is “close” to opposing the death penalty. But “he’s not there yet… he’s close, and needs some help.”

The Post notes, “Obama has increasingly confronted racial disparities in the criminal justice system and in American society in in his second term.” It continues, “Obama, who has said he supports executions in some circumstances but raised concerns about the application of capital punishment, has not yet focused in this new push on racial disparities in capital trials — the most serious cases before any criminal court. Now, just as he publicly changed his opinions on other major social issues in which public opinion changed, like gay marriage, some have wondered whether the president will change his perspective.”

It was not that long ago when the death penalty seemed untouchable. Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis was bludgeoned on both the issue and, perhaps more accurately, his clumsy and poorly articulated defense of his position on the issue. From there, it seemed the issue was untouchable.

In 1992, Governor Bill Clinton flew back to Arkansas during the primaries to oversee the execution of one condemned person.

But in recent years, support for the death penalty has declined. People are concerned with the prospect of innocents being put to death, about the racial disparities of the system, and the cost and length of time needed to execute people.

The Post writes, “Ogletree predicted that the president will eventually have no choice but to oppose the death penalty, confronted with the data on racial disparities in capital punishment, as well as on the costs of litigating capital cases and on the number of defendants who are eventually exonerated.”

“Even if he doesn’t change his mind in the next year and a half, I think the public’s point of view is going to influence him,” Professor Ogletree said. “As a citizen, he can have an enormous amount of influence.”

“In the application of the death penalty in this country, we have seen significant problems — racial bias, uneven application of the death penalty,” President Obama said last year, following a gruesomely botched execution in Oklahoma.

There is still politics to be played here. The Supreme Court saw four of its justices battle it out over whether the death penalty remains constitutional. Former Attorney General Eric Holder reviewed the issue, but the Justice Department has yet to make a recommendation.

Moreover, some advocates believe that it would be better for the White House not to enter the fray. Right now states have moving away from the death penalty and the insertion of the President might polarize the debate.

Polling shows that support for capital punishment has fallen most drastically among Democrats and independents. Republicans still register strong support for capital punishment.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Tia Will

    There was precisely zero political risk in what Obama and Clinton said to the NAACP this week. And Obama’s prison visit, while symbolically important, posed zero political risk.”

    This statement is only true if one is looking through the myopic lens of personal political risk. Neither Obama nor Clinton have any higher political office to which they could aspire. However, if one believes that either or both care at all about the direction in which the country moves on the issue of mass incarceration, then there is certainly risk involved in taking a strong, and potentially polarizing position. I believe that both probably care greatly about national outcomes as well as about their personal legacies.

    1. Davis Progressive

      i think michelle alexander would not dispute that point.  her point however is that the on-the-ground people have already set this in motion, obama needs only to jump on board.

  2. Davis Progressive

    my view of obama remains about the same.  he’s willing to go two-thirds of the way.  making mandatory federal sentences is a good start.  pulling back on the war on drugs and all its policies would be a better position to take.  i still think most of the problems associated with illegal immigration stem from the war on drugs, but no one really wants to make that point.

    1. Tia Will


      I certainly agree that immigration issues, like fatherless children, cycles of poverty and probably many more of our social ills  stem from the “war on drugs”.  President Obama certainly did not fulfill my hopes on this, as well as a number of issues. But he has definitely moved in the right direction on mandatory federal sentences.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        So you’re saying when Obama releases cocaine dealers from prison they are going to marry the mother of their children, get a job at 7/11 or painting houses, and contribute to society?

        And how exactly does illegal immigration relate to the war on drugs? You lost me there. Are you implying that if drug use was more legal, the illegal immigrant who killed Kate would not have killed Kate? I don’t get it.

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          I believe the juries typically hear the evidence, the impact on the community, and get a clear picture of the overall situation.

          I also recall reading years ago a study from the Rand Corporation that the average criminal has committed 20 crimes before they are caught.

          We have drug diversion programs, we have first offender programs, we have probation … but when someone helps take a whole community down, is involved with violence, death threats, murder, racketeering, preying on young people and children … I don’t see the impulsive need to go soft on them. But it was the President who chose to release someone early who helped sell $300,000 worth of cocaine a month, not I.

  3. TrueBlueDevil

    David, Tia, and DP defend the release of “low level” drug dealers while avoiding the real world criminal that Obama is releasing.

    There are inferences that these are individuals who are “small time”, maybe marijuana, perfectly harmless and “non violent”. What a distortion of reality.

    The vast majority of those given clemency were cocaine dealers, many caught with “cocaine base” (i.e., crack). Obama has admitted to his own cocaine use as a young person, so maybe that helped influence this poor decision.

    Marlon McNealy is part of the family that brought crack cocaine to western Florida. Working for the Mathis organization, they sold over $300,000 of cocaine per week.

    A few common sense facts.

    1. If you’re moving tens of millions of dollars of cocaine and crack, there is violence. There is murder. They just haven’t been able to pin it to you in the “don’t snitch” world.

    2. “The Mathis group “held a lot of neighborhoods hostage” and was suspected in a number of homicides, shootings and robberies, Celona said.”

    3. Crack cocaine ravaged many inner city neighborhoods, which is why the civic leaders themselves – many black – sought out these tough sentencing guidelines.

    4. Does anyone remember “crack babies”? I don’t think drug dealers who peddle crack cocaine to young people, to young mothers, and who maintain a territory by intimidation and violence, are “non violent” offenders. It’s like the olden days of the Chicago Mob where they take them down for accounting violations because they can’t prove murder, robbery, and racketeering.


    I guess we could always try selling some crack cocaine in Davis to see how “non violent” it is.

    1. Don Shor

      4. Does anyone remember “crack babies”?

      Yes. They were a myth.
      Part of the long and sordid history of government and media-induced hysteria about drugs that makes it impossible to have a rational discussion about drug enforcement policies and their outcomes. Mass incarceration for drug offenses has very negative consequences. I’m glad the president is focusing on the impact of those policies.

    2. David Greenwald

      Marlon McNealy, St. Petersburg, Fla.
      Offense: Conspiracy to commit racketeering (two counts); conspiracy to distribute cocaine base; knowingly and intentionally distributing 50 grams or more of cocaine base (three counts) (Middle District of Florida)
      Sentence: Life imprisonment; 10 years’ supervised release (Aug. 18, 1993)
      Commutation Grant: Prison sentence commuted to expire on November 10, 2015.

      So he served 22 years instead of life. You mentioned he was “part of the family” but how big a role did he play in that family?

    3. zaqzaq

      These do not sound like small time drug dealers doing hand to hand sales on the streets but instead individuals who are moving significant quantities of illegal drugs.  The collateral damage that these dealers caused is significant and quiet often violent.  Remember that Al Capone was finally convicted of a non-violent offense, tax evasion.  Obama’s true values are showing.  This policy along with refusing to lower the flag at the White House to half mast after four marines and a sailor are gunned down by an islamic fanatic demonstrates the inner workings of Obama’s mind.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        zaqzaq, imagine 18 more months of this. He will truly “transform” America.

        Meanwhile, no mention of Kate, no phone call to Kate’s parents, no flags at half mast for 5 slaughtered Marines, no condemnation of radical Islam… but 46 penned letters to cocaine dealers. Great.

        1. Frankly

          I think the point is the choices the President is making for what events he responds to and which groups of people he appears to want to help, and those he seems to ignore.

          It all fits into that “most divisive and polarizing President ever” criticism that I am sure will be his most lasting legacy.  Except if Hillary wins, and then he will just be one of two of the same.

          1. Don Shor

            It’s just the same invective we always get. Irrelevant to the topic at hand, but reflective of the extreme personal animus against Obama that has been evident from the hard right since January 2009.

        2. Frankly

          extreme personal animus against Obama

          Just like the extreme personal animus against Bush from the left.  The difference is that with Obama, it is justified.  Bush was called a racist and it was said that he hated black people because of Katrina.  Meanwhile he had been doing more than any other world leader to help stop the aids epidemic in Africa.


          1. Don Shor

            Yes, I know people who were as irrational about Bush as you are about Obama. That doesn’t make your views valid.

        3. Davis Progressive

          we have gotten to the point where there can be no meaningful conversation that even remotely centers around obama.  talk about mass incarceration and you get the vast right wing conspiracy’s talking points.  can we please discuss the issue at hand.  i don’t give a crap what tbd or frankly thinks is telling about obama’s priorities.  i do find it a laugh riot how bent out of shape tbd gets with drugs and immigration issue.  i wonder what freud would say.

        4. Frankly

          I know people who were as irrational about Bush as you are about Obama.

          There is nothing at all irrational about my criticism of Obama.  It is all backed with facts and is objective.

          But, there is a lot irrational in your defense of Obama.

        5. TrueBlueDevil

          In the beginning of his term I was hoping for the best. I liked that he appeared to have some tepid support for nuclear power, and I figured go with the flow on everything else. He had all three branches of government, nothing we could do about it. I also did pray that we kept him safe, and still do.

          His presidency has been a disaster, I never thought anyone would make Carter look good. I could care less if some of the rumors of innuendo are true, his actual policies and running over the Constitution are a disaster. Recently he went around a GOP Congress – with their approval – and changed the rules of how we enact a Treaty.

          He and his crew lied about the ACA. It just gets old.

          Then he stands up in the White House for every two bit criminal making excuses, but ignores the tragic death of a promising young lady.

          The criticism of Bush is more nuanced. He often governed like a liberal, like Nixon. 9/11 opened the spending floodgates (so he had a good excuse), and he omitted even more Americans from paying taxes. But he did save millions of African lives, paved the way for Obama with Colin Powell and Condi Rice, and even had a love child with Condi if tabloids are correct. And the Surge worked.

  4. Tia Will



    Marlon McNealy is part of the family that brought crack cocaine to western Florida. Working for the Mathis organization, they sold over $300,000 of cocaine per week.”

    I happen to believe that 22 years is probably “enough” time served for the selling of cocaine. One could reasonably disagree on what constitutes societal protection, rehabilitation ( as if any of that occurred in our prisons) and punishment.

    However, the specific disagreement here is whether any one is “ignoring” this. I am acknowledging, and disagreeing with your point. And would like to counter that you have made no comment on the other twenty odd cases. In my mind, if as regards cocaine sales, there are twenty + people who are released from unjust incarceration, and one that is truly deserving of further incarceration but is let out…..then overall,  justice has been served.

    And while we are discussing the harm done by cocaine to innocents, why are we excluding the medically proven harm done by FAS ( fetal alcohol syndrome ) to unborn children from our considerations ?  Now I am not claiming that there is an “epidemic” of FAS babies because that would be just as erroneous as the crack baby story.  However in some parts of the country and certainly over time, alcohol has caused  the numerically  greater adverse  outcomes.  Alcohol is legal ( through our legislative choice) , although highly addictive just as is cocaine and yet we allow the manufacturers and purveyors of alcohol to freely advertise and sell their product for enormous profit. Do we not consider this even the slightest bit biased and hypocritical as a society ?

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      I’m unclear as to where you got your figure for 20 odd cases. I read that he commuted 46 cases, 41 for cocaine.

      I find it troubling that drug dealers that have helped to take down whole communities are treated in such a non-serious manner. We are talking about “selling” life altering drugs to citizens, women, teenagers and even children.

      Obama himself illustrates the nature of the seller (dealer) and how even he downplays it! In his own book Dreams from my Father, when he wrote:

      “… Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though – Mickey, my potential initiator had been just a little too eager for me to go through with that.”

      1. He calls his drug dealer his “initiator”.

      2. His drug dealer is pushing him to use heroine.

      I’m not sure how this isn’t serious, and how many people do we think Mickey “initiated” to heroine or crack? I spoke with a woman friend who said when she was a teenager who bought pot from her 30-year-old dealer, he was always trying to have sex with her. How many teenagers have succumbed to those pressures in an altered state? One “non-violent” crime doesn’t happen in isolation.

      If you want to ban cigarettes and booze, knock yourself out. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

      I also am perplexed as to why the President, knowing these individuals will be scrutinized, would releases such a big-time drug kingpins. Is he just that sloppy, or is it arrogance? I think the latter. He is going to push the envelop to release even individuals who have worked to take down whole neighborhoods and communities.

      1. Davis Progressive

        ” I read that he commuted 46 cases, 41 for cocaine…  I find it troubling that drug dealers that have helped to take down whole communities are treated in such a non-serious manner.”

        how so, all of these people spent 20 years in prison for their crimes, it’s not like they are getting off scott-free here?

      2. Tia Will


        You are correct on the 40 odd rather than 20 odd number. I suspect that it was my am caffeine deprived brain speaking. However, to no one’s surprise I see the correction as strengthening vs weakening my point. How many of the 40 odd do you suppose were low level offenders vs “king pins” ? It would seem likely to me that this makes it even more likely that a greater amount of justice is being servedby their release, while still having imposed a 22 year sentence on Your example.

        It is of interest to me that the only two explanations  you are able to ascribe to the Presidents actions are “sloppy” or “arrogant”. How about genuinely believes that justice is not being served by keeping these individuals incarcerated ? Did you even consider that as a possibility ?

  5. Frankly

    Such a hoot!

    Let out the cocaine dealers, but making distilled spirits without a license is federal tax evasion among about another dozen felonies.

    And this is all you need to know folks.  Because cocaine and other drugs are not taxed, government has no vested interest in keeping those law-breakers looked away.  In fact, there is a reverse incentive.  You see, those criminals cannot vote, but if they are released and government spends less money on incarceration, that money can be better used by politicians to buy favors that return votes.

    It is one or the the other that is the root motivation for all government policy: money or votes.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        This is just Act 1, right?

        I read that he has commuted more sentences than a whole string of presidents, combined. And he has 18 months to go. He might make us forget about Bill and Hillary fleecing the White House on their way out the back door with $200,000 in furniture!

    1. Don Shor

      government has no vested interest in keeping those law-breakers looked away….It is one or the the other that is the root motivation for all government policy: money or votes.

      Believe it or not, some people go into politics to try to make the world a better place. That includes people on the left, on the right, and in the middle.

      Because cocaine and other drugs are not taxed, government has no vested interest in keeping those law-breakers looked away.

      So regulate drugs and tax them. Problem solved.

      1. Biddlin

        LOL, Don.. Frankly is still butthurt from the president’s first election and like most of his political ilk, stands on the sidelines time flinging poo, but offers no alternative policies or serious candidates to present them to the electorate. While we may differ on Frankly’s root motives, we all know that this president could walk across the reflecting pool, turn it to wine and give eyesight to the blind and hair to Donald Trump and Frankly would still find reason to excoriate him. On balance, I have not been happy with Obama’s timid approach to many social issues, but feel he erred on the side of caution for bigger reasons of national unity. I believe that has been a failed approach and now, perhaps he does, too.


        1. Frankly

          Biddlin – my musical brutha from another mutha… your poetic artfulness shines through.

          I get over election disappointment pretty quickly, but Obama has proven to be much worse a President that I would have feared.  The Rules for Radicals-trained community organizer is running the country by that book… the only one he seems to value other than the Koran.

          Bush was/is quite a bit down the list of favorite Presidents too.  I was very critical of him on a number of policy issues.

          feel he erred on the side of caution for bigger reasons of national unity.

          I almost peed my pants reading this.  Obama erred on caution for nation unity?  Ha!  There is nothing in that guy’s words and actions that appeal to national unity.  He is certainly committed to unifying his friends… but also sticking his finger in the eye of everyone else.  That is classic Saul Alinkey training.

          I am not so disappointing with Obama as I am the clear indication that smart liberals are so prone to defend him because he makes them feel good and feel validated… but at the expense of almost everything else.   I was hoping that smart liberals would begin to understand the divide and conquer strategy isn’t good for the country.

          Thankfully, independents are bailing from the liberal-Democrat party.

        2. TrueBlueDevil

          Really? You really think that? Here are some facts.

          1. He has added $7 Trillion to the debt.

          2. He massively increased government spending, including a record $900B “stimulus”, and we still have a sputtering economy. Slowest recovery ever, even with record spending.

          3. Iraq was stable; he pulled out with no Standing Forces Agreement, and now it is in shambles.

          4. Iran is the number one sponsor of state terrorism, and he just handed them a one-sided deal where they get virtually everything. They arm Hezbollah and Hamas now. What will happen when they have hundreds of millions more, oil revenues, and they can buy military equipment? Go anywhere, check anything now requires 22 days advance notice.

          5. He lied about the ACA.

          But I like the Trump dig, good one.

    2. Tia Will


      It is one or the the other that is the root motivation for all government policy: money or votes.”

      Well human nature being what it is, then I guess that we can reduce all private industry to one root motivation “money” since votes don’t count.

      Except that I don’t believe that is true. I believe that many people are motivated by  interest, or the belief that they can contribute to the world being a better place however they may define that. I simply do not believe that everyone in any walk of life is only interested in money or votes or personal power. If so, you have to deny that any altruistic motive can exist at all. I do not believe that is true.

  6. Don Shor

    On the News Hour last night there was a segment on the spike in murders in Chicago. This quote from the Chicago police chief stood out:

    GARRY MCCARTHY: It’s just such a simple formula. New York State did it. Stiffen the gun laws, lighten up on the narcotics penalties, and you will see incarceration rates go down, you will see gun seizures go down, and you will see murders go down at the same time.

      1. Don Shor

        He is not calling for gun control bans (and neither am I). I should post his other part of the comment for context.

        GARRY MCCARTHY, Superintendent, Chicago Police Department: Well, it’s very frustrating, because I see clearly what needs to be done.

        CHRIS BURY: Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy says coping with Chicago’s violence is like drinking from a fire hose. His officers take more illegal guns off the street than New York and L.A. combined: more than 3,400 in the first six months of this year. But even that has not been enough to stem the killings.

        GARRY MCCARTHY: The biggest reason is, the people who we arrest with firearms do not do jail time here in the state of Illinois. Possession of a loaded firearm, illegally, in the state of Illinois is not even considered a violent crime for sentencing purposes.

        And it’s very frustrating to know that it’s like 7 percent of the population causes 80 percent of the violent crime. Well, let’s put that 7 percent of the population in jail. Somebody has to go to jail.

        Our current system, which the president is highlighting, is incarcerating people for possession. It is reasonable to question whether stiff sentences for possession or even for low-level dealing are reasonable, and what their other impacts may be. But if your goal is to reduce crime on the streets, it seems that the police chief has a point. Putting people in jail for drug-related activities isn’t a solution. Long sentences for that aren’t a solution. Winnowing through to get the ones who are doing violent things (i.e., gun-related) around drugs will be more effective.

          1. Don Shor

            The point of the police chief’s comments, though, is that they can confiscate lots of guns. But he believes there should be sentencing sanctions or enhancements for illegal possession of firearms.

    1. hpierce

      Don… unless the “spike” in chicago murders was associated in recent changes in gun or narcotics policies in Chicago, I think neither factors explain the “spike”.  Now, as far as long-term averages in the murder rate, the point is potentially valid.

  7. TrueBlueDevil

    I don’t understand the silo mentality of the Left towards hard drugs.

    Crack decimated the Black family. I read that crack directly lead to the homicide rate of young Black men quadrupling in inner city America, and it also lead to many youth dropping out of school because of the delusion that they could make a lot of money slanging (selling) drugs.

    I think it was Freakanomics which said it had the most damaging effect on the Black community since Jim Crow. And the Left wants to downplay that?

    We finally have career criminals off the streets, crack appears to be a fraction of where it was, and our policing and sentencing policies have helped to save hundreds of thousands of lives of young black men, and the Left wants to adopt a mindset of collective amnesia?

    I guess years from now we can see how many of these drug dealers go back to their former ways. Everything I’ve read shows that beating drug addiction is very tough, and many go through multiple failed attempts before finally kicking the habit. Most of them don’t have an education or job skills. Where will they turn?

    I don’t see this as a victimless or non-violent crime. One drug dealer can effect thousands of lives – forever.

    One radio host claimed that the way China stopped their former national opium addiction was by locking up all users, and executing the dealers. Is this true?

    1. Davis Progressive

      one thing you might want to consider – you seem to believe that the left is pro-hard drug.  i don’t think that’s true.  the question here is whether the current drug laws make things better or worse.  and i think lengthy and disproportionate sentences (100 to 1 ratio of cocaine to crack sentencing) does more harm than good.

      you’re citing freakanomics as your basis for opinion?  are you also aware that he found that abortion as a reason why crime rates went down?  there is a reason why most of the theories haven’t made their way into the main stream.

      “We finally have career criminals off the streets, crack appears to be a fraction of where it was, and our policing and sentencing policies have helped to save hundreds of thousands of lives of young black men, and the Left wants to adopt a mindset of collective amnesia?”

      a lot of problems with this comment.  first of all, most of the research suggests that there is a window in time when most people commit crimes, even “career” criminals.  by punishing people beyond that, we are spending resources that could go elsewhere. we are also not allowing people to get their lives back together.  the people freed on this list have served for a very long period of time – shouldn’t they get a chance to get their lives back?

    2. Frankly

      TBD – I can explain it.

      Victim mentality and control.

      Criminals are victims of a system that is too harsh in absolute punishment that the left has no control over.

      If we let them out, then we have a lot more people on the streets that can wear the shroud of victimhood, and the left can demand tax increases to fund more treatment to “save” them.

      Coming soon to your neighborhood, half-way homes to treat the drug addicted.

      I look at this from a financial perspective more than a moral perspective.  Because the morality is a multi-faceted consideration.  I think about my ex-coworker that worried that most of his family would be dead from OD if not incarcerated.  So one moral argument is that we should lock them away for their own safety from self-inflected death.

      But from a financial perspective I don’t think we can afford to attempt to prevent so many people from destroying their own lives from drug abuse.   I don’t support prison time for any crime where the criminal only causes harm to himself.  Now you can make a case that illegal drug use has a cost to society and families, but this is a slippery slop argument that then starts to reach into a number of uncomfortable areas.   I keep taking it back to “material harm”.  If a drug dealer sells drugs to junkies that keep to themselves and some OD, did the drug dealer cause material harm?  The junkies would just get the drugs somewhere else… because they are junkies.   Now, if the drug dealer sells to kids, I support life in prison as the punishment.

      I think selling illegal drug and possession with intent to sell should demand prison time.  But not 20 years unless there are multiple strikes or if the sales are to children.

      But for drug possession for use, I say slap em’ with a fine and let them go.  Then liberals will have another source of victims that they can work on saving.

      1. Davis Progressive

        “Criminals are victims”

        isn’t that a very broad swath.  don’t you see a difference between someone who violently attacks another person and someone who chooses to smoke a bowl?

          1. David Greenwald

            But I think his point was that by using such a broad phrase, you captured an incredibly wide array of people from people who would be in prison to people who would not.

      2. Tia Will


        So one moral argument is that we should lock them away for their own safety from self-inflected death.”

        Except that you complete ignore the fact that “locking them away for their own safety from self-inflicted death” is a myth. Prisons are rife with drugs which are readily available. A major demand for medical help for prisoners is over dose.

        Now, if the drug dealer sells to kids, I support life in prison as the punishment.”

        Does this include the person who sells alcohol to kids ? How about the individual who sells tobacco ( a well known addictive carcinogen ) to kids ? Life in prison for them too ? If not, why not ?  Same potential effect ? Same if not greater material harm.


        1. Frankly

          Selling dangerous, adictive and ILLEGAL substances to minors.

          And this point is a reason why we need to consider one of the terrible consequences of legalization of dangerous and addictive drugs.  Inplicit nod to minors that it is alright… is NOT alright.  And also, the moral and legal challenge for policing these drugs being provide to minors gets more complicated with legalization.

          I have been completely consistent in my supporting laws and rules that keep bad things away from kids.  I am fine with restricting kids’ rights to have cigarettes and alchohol.  I think we should have one exception for soldiers.  If they are old enough to fight and die for the country, I think they should be able to legally drink.  But otherwise, wait until your are an adult to make the choices to mess uo your life.  And I will honor your right to make those choices.

          1. David Greenwald

            At this point, all we are talking about is reducing sentences from decades down to something more reasonable. I have yet to see a realistic proposal for legalization of anything other than marijuana.

        2. TrueBlueDevil

          I would have to just take a wild guess and say that crack cocaine is just a weee bit more dangerous than a six-pack of beer or package of cigarettes.

  8. TrueBlueDevil

    Thank you for the link to their supposed facts. I write “supposed” as there are deaths all over the place due to marijuana: some get swept under the rug, or others are ignored by publications with an axe to grind – like this group.

    Just this year three people have died in Colorado from pot edibles.

    The Daily Mail in the UK notes simply the negative health effects of smoking marijuana per inhaling chemicals similar to a tobacco user, except that many pot smokers have no filter, and pot is unregulated. This source estimates 30,000 deaths per year from pot.


    Fatal car crashes have tripled in Seattle and Colorado along with lax marijuana enforcement.


    Drug-Induced Deaths1 46,471 (legal and illegal)

    Intentional Self-Harm (Suicide) 41,149

    Septicemia 38,156

    Chronic Liver Disease and Cirrhosis 36,427    

    Alcoholic Liver Disease [subset of Chronic Liver Disease]    18,146

    Injury by Firearms 33,636

    Alcohol-Induced Deaths 29,001

    Parkinson’s Disease 25,196

    Pneumonitis Due to Solids and Liquids 18,579

    Homicide 16,121

    All Illicit Drugs Combined (2000)2 17,0002 

    Cannabis (Marijuana)3 0 – LIE LIE LIE (see above)


    1. Davis Progressive

      why use a right wing blog to make your point?  why not use data from the justice department?

      “many pot smokers have no filter, and pot is unregulated.”

      that is easily corrected, you just don’t want to do it.

      “This source estimates 30,000 deaths per year from pot.”

      so?  i call bs.  prove it.

      “Cannabis (Marijuana)3 0 – LIE LIE LIE (see above)”

      you mean you are saying it is a lie based on some source that the daily caller dug up with no evidentiary support?

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        Don supplied, the source, not I.

        Interesting that both you and Tia bypass the recent deaths in Colorado from edible marijuana.

        Simple logic dictates that marijuana causes tens of thousands of deaths every year, just like tobacco, it’s just difficult for you to swallow actual criticism of your supposed wonder drug. Not to mention the recent medical studies which show the huge damage it inflicts upon brain development of young users. (A potential 10% reduction in IQ being one effect.)

        1. Davis Progressive

          if you want us to focus on three deaths, don’t post a phony 30,000 death figure. besides, i don’t find the recent deaths in colorado relevant to the question of whether people should be imprisoned for 5 years, 10 years, or life for drug offenses. every so often a college student dies from drinking too much water, that doesn’t mean we should ban water.

        2. TrueBlueDevil

          I don’t agree. Just as tobacco kills from inhaling nicotine, tar, and other various substances, so does inhaling marijuana. Some argue people smoke pot less frequently, yet on the flip side, there is little regulation and often no filter. Newer delivery methods like “dabbing” also add in another whole ball of wax.

          In fact, we also have an increasing death rate due to driving while stoned. I read one report where fatalities have gone up by 300%, and may continue to rise as authorities know what to test for / track it’s effects. Colorado has also seen a spike in marijuana driving deaths since they legalized it’s use.



          1. Don Shor

            Smoking marijuana is bad for your lungs. However, the rate of consumption of burnt leaves is much lower than for tobacco. I’m unaware of any pack-a-day marijuana smokers. The dose makes the poison.
            Driving while stoned is dangerous and illegal, just like driving while drunk.
            But the fact remains that marijuana is of sufficiently low toxicity that there is no actual lethal dose. There are lethal doses for nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, and practically every other drug of consequence.
            So regulating pot and its uses is appropriate. Having it be illegal makes no sense at all.

          1. Don Shor

            There is no lethal dose of marijuana. That is a fact. All of these silly articles you post actually prove the point. The guy wasn’t killed by the active ingredient in marijuana. He passed out. People pass out from alcohol all the time, and in the process do a lot of damage to their bodies and organs. Marijuana isn’t doing that damage.

            I am utterly baffled by your obsession with marijuana. It isn’t a drug I recommend to anyone. It isn’t safe to drive or do things like operate power machinery when you’re stoned. It is a psychoactive drug that should be decriminalized and regulated, and it should remain illegal to do various things when under the influence. Nobody should ever go to jail for possession of marijuana. It isn’t even close to being as dangerous as alcohol or as unhealthy as tobacco. Of all the licit and illicit drugs being used recreationally, it is the least toxic. It’s not even close.

        3. Frankly

          I agree with Don on his points on marijuana.  I don’t think it is as harmless as some would have use believe, but it is less harmful that other substances that are legal.  It is a friggin’ weed you can grow in your backyard and you just dry it out and smoke it… give me a break.  There is no other “drug” like it in that everything else takes processing.  Even alcohol requires a a distilling and refinement process to produce.

          To think that we are arresting and incarcerating people for possession of a weed that can and does grow in the backyard… it is frankly, UN-American.

          Funny story, last trip back to Nebraska to see my grandmother before she passed away at 94, the senior center where she lived was surrounded by wild marijuana (hemp) plants.   One of the nurses told story of a frisky gentleman member that attempted to smoke some of it because he heard it was like Viagra and he ended up with a bad cough that almost killed him.  But then he got the doctor to prescribe some medical stuff because he noted how it had helped his appetite.  According to the nurse this guy was skin and bones and actually put on some weight and looked good… before he died of age-related illness.

          My big problem with legalized or decriminalized marijuana is the message we send to children.  It does have impact to cognitive function and motivation from continued long-term use.  But, kids can already get all they want without much trouble.   And frankly, I think I would rather they smoke pot than drink.  I have never heard of a fight breaking out at a pot party.   And although driving while stoned should continue to be illegal, it appears that many people are not as impaired driving stoned as they are driving drunk.

          A 1993 report from the U.S. Department of Transportation found that high drivers are only moderately impaired. “The impairment manifests itself mainly in the ability to maintain a steady lateral position on the road, but its magnitude is not exceptional in comparison with changes produced by many medicinal drugs and alcohol,” the report concluded. In short, marijuana’s “adverse effects on driving performance appear relatively small … All subjects were willing and able to finish the driving tests without great difficulty.”

          1. Don Shor

            My big problem with legalized or decriminalized marijuana is the message we send to children.

            I agree that is a problem, and our current drug “education” practices are a big part of that problem. I did my best, when the schools were dispensing their nonsense about these things, to teach my kids the principles of toxicology and help them apply some critical thinking skills. I much prefer DC’s decriminalization to Colorado’s, but in any case people shouldn’t be jailed for this stuff.

            What I really wish to ask TBD is what drug policy he prefers. Do you really wish to keep people locked up for years and years for drug crimes?

        4. TrueBlueDevil

          Frankly, I think you may be a little outdated on what the current state of marijuana is.

          1. Marijuana is much more powerful than we were kids. Secondly, I’ve even had some stoners agree and tell me that they engineered the plants for maximum THC while lessening or removing the natural components that balanced everything out (chemically).

          2. Are you familiar with “dabbing” or “wax”? Look it up. Better yet, watch a youtube video of someone taking a big dab hit, and see their eyes roll back into their head, some of the videos I have seen were quite telling.

          3. We don’t yet know the exact effects of dabbing and vaping, but we d know that already being high or drunk, and then having a butane lighter light a substance next to you on fire – ala Richard Pryor – isn’t wise. Hence why it is called “the crack cocaine of marijuana”.

          4. If an adult wants to smoke a joint on Saturday night, I have no problem with that.

          5. We have PROOF that the use of pot can reduce the IQ of teenagers by up to 10%! Puts some of our past discussions into context Wonder why some groups who use pot at a higher rate than others have a problem finding, or keeping, a job?

          6. 41 or the 46 Obama commuted sentences were for cocaine, many for crack and crack dealing.

          7. Driving While Stoned accidents and deaths are going through the roof.

          8. Don – they fry their brain, don’t come back and ask us for welfare, food stamps, free housing, etc.

          1. Don Shor

            — Do you really wish to keep people locked up for years and years for drug crimes? —

            Seemed like a simple question.

        5. Davis Progressive

          “Don – they fry their brain, don’t come back and ask us for welfare, food stamps, free housing, etc.”

          this is what i don’t get from you guys – isn’t prison $50,000 a year free housing, welfare and medical coverage?  and you put them for life?  some of your cohorts have finally figured that out.

        6. TrueBlueDevil

          We can follow the ways of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Put them in military tents outside, and let them clean freeways and contribute to society. Cut fire breaks.

          We aren’t jailing casual pot smokers, we do jail crack dealers who eviscerated the black community and meth / heroin dealers (like the Mexican cartels).

  9. Tia Will


    So is it your contention that data from the UK based on numbers compiled there proves that numbers compiled in the US by the CDC with regard to deaths in the United States are lies ?  Really ?

    Drug-Induced Deaths 46,471″

    It would be of interest to see what they are defining as “drug induced deaths” since they have broken out alcohol related deaths separately. You are providing these numbers with essentially no defining criteria as though they completely disprove an unrelated data set. I am making a guess that your background is not in medicine, epidemiology, or any kind of comparative analysis of data ? Am I correct ?


    1. TrueBlueDevil

      Don provided the link, I simply highlighted some factors from his source.

      Putting deaths attributable to pot smoking at zero tells me their agenda loud and clear.

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