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1 CN MB: Judge Slams Law, Delays SentencingSat, 20 May 2017
Source:Winnipeg Free Press (CN MB) Author:May, Katie Area:Manitoba Lines:107 Added:05/24/2017

Gives mom convicted of drug smuggling time to arrange child care ahead of mandatory prison term

In a case that has raised questions about the effect of mandatory minimum sentences, a Manitoba judge has taken pity on a woman he convicted by agreeing to give her more freedom before he sends her to prison.

In a likely unprecedented move, Justice Sheldon Lanchbery reserved his decision and delayed the sentencing of 37-year-old Sandra Dignard by about two months. That will allow the mother of four time to make child-care arrangements before she is placed in custody. The judge said he has no choice but to sentence Dignard to two years in prison for drug trafficking, despite his belief she should not be locked up.

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2 US: Unity Was Emerging On Sentencing, Then Came SessionsMon, 15 May 2017
Source:New York Times (NY) Author:Hulse, Carl Area:United States Lines:128 Added:05/20/2017

WASHINGTON - As a senator, Jeff Sessions was such a conservative outlier on criminal justice issues that he pushed other Republicans to the forefront of his campaign to block a sentencing overhaul, figuring they would be taken more seriously.

Now Mr. Sessions is attorney general and need not take a back seat to anyone when it comes to imposing his ultratough-on-crime views. The effect of his transition from being just one of 535 in Congress to being top dog at the Justice Department was underscored on Friday when he ordered federal prosecutors to make sure they threw the book at criminal defendants and pursued the toughest penalties possible.

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3 US: Mixed Grades For A Scrapped Drug PolicyMon, 15 May 2017
Source:Wall Street Journal (US) Author:Reinhard, Beth Area:United States Lines:117 Added:05/20/2017

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week jettisoned an Obama administration policy that had been aimed at sparing less-serious drug offenders from harsh sentences, he called his new, more aggressive approach "moral and just."

But the verdict among law-enforcement and legal professionals is more mixed. Government data, along with interviews with former U.S. attorneys who advised the Justice Department under President Barack Obama, suggest the previous policy achieved several, though not all, of its goals.

Then-Attorney General Eric Holder announced the policy that was to be embodied in what became known as the "Holder memo" in a 2013 speech to the American Bar Association. Mr. Holder pledged that federal prosecutors would focus on more dangerous drug traffickers and avoid charging less-serious offenders with crimes that required long, mandatory-minimum sentences. Mandatory-minimum sentences, he said, had led to bloated, costly prisons and disproportionately ravaged minority communities.

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4 US: Drug Lenience Of Obama Era May Be EndingWed, 10 May 2017
Source:New York Times (NY) Author:Ruiz, Rebecca R. Area:United States Lines:114 Added:05/15/2017

WASHINGTON - Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to soon toughen rules on prosecuting drug crimes, according to people familiar with internal deliberations, in what would be a major rollback of Obama-era policies that would put his first big stamp on a Justice Department he has criticized as soft on crime.

Mr. Sessions has been reviewing a pair of memos issued by his predecessor, Eric H. Holder Jr., who encouraged federal prosecutors to use their discretion in what criminal charges they filed, particularly when those charges carried mandatory minimum penalties.

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5US GA: Georgia, Feds Diverge On Policy For SentencingSat, 13 May 2017
Source:Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA) Author:Bluestein, Greg Area:Georgia Lines:Excerpt Added:05/13/2017

Even as Gov. Nathan Deal was signing the latest batch of state laws designed to keep lower-level offenders out of prison, the Trump administration was preparing a crackdown seeking the toughest possible charges against offenders convicted of nonviolent drug violations.

The U.S. Justice Department released directives Friday that call for more mandatory minimum sentences and direct prosecutors to pursue the strictest punishments available. It was a sweeping shift in criminal justice policy, reversing Obama-era policies to reduce penalties for some nonviolent offenses.

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6 US: Sessions Tells Prosecutors To Seek Harsher PenaltiesSat, 13 May 2017
Source:New York Times (NY) Author:Ruiz, Rebecca R. Area:United States Lines:135 Added:05/13/2017

WASHINGTON - Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against crime suspects, he announced Friday, reversing Obama administration efforts to ease penalties for some nonviolent drug violations.

The drastic shift in criminal justice policy, foreshadowed during recent weeks, is Mr. Sessions's first major stamp on the Justice Department, and it highlights several of his top targets: drug dealing, gun crime and gang violence.

In an eight-paragraph memo, Mr. Sessions returned to the guidance of President George W. Bush's administration by calling for more uniform punishments - including mandatory minimum sentences - and instructing prosecutors to pursue the harshest possible charges. Mr. Sessions's policy is broader than that of the Bush administration, however, and how it is carried out will depend more heavily on the judgments of United States attorneys and assistant attorneys general as they bring charges.

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7 US: Sessions Toughens Policy For Drug CasesSat, 13 May 2017
Source:Wall Street Journal (US) Author:Reinhard, Beth Area:United States Lines:122 Added:05/13/2017

In a move expected to swell federal prisons, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is scuttling an Obama administration policy to avoid charging nonviolent, less-serious drug offenders with long, mandatory-minimum sentences.

Mr. Sessions's new guidelines revive a policy created under President George W. Bush that tasked federal prosecutors with charging "the most serious readily provable offense."

It is the latest and most significant step by the new administration toward dismantling President Barack Obama's criminal justice legacy. And it defies a trend in state capitals-including several led by conservative Republicans-toward recalibrating or abandoning the mandatory-minimum sentences popularized during the "war on drugs" of the 1980s and 1990s.

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8 Canada: Justice Minister Defends Proposed Maximum Penalty ForMon, 17 Apr 2017
Source:Globe and Mail (Canada) Author:Curry, Bill Area:Canada Lines:92 Added:04/19/2017

A prison sentence of up to 14 years for providing cannabis to youth is shaping up as one of the early points of contention as the Liberal government prepares to defend its landmark legislation to legalize recreational marijuana.

Bill C-45, the Cannabis Act, makes clear in its opening passages that the main purpose of the legislation is to prevent young people from accessing cannabis.

Those opening statements are backed up with stiff penalties, including imprisonment for up to 14 years for providing marijuana to someone 17 or under.

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9 CN ON: Editorial: Big Challenges Still To Come For Cannabis LawFri, 14 Apr 2017
Source:Toronto Star (CN ON)          Area:Ontario Lines:121 Added:04/16/2017

The true test of Justin Trudeau's commitment to his sound pot policy will be how his government handles the hurdles to come

By tabling legislation to overturn Canada's 94-year-old prohibition on pot, the Trudeau government has put forward its first truly bold bit of public policy. And it's a good one. The ban on marijuana has brought a great deal of misery, while delivering few benefits. Yet legalization is far from a fait accompli. The true test of Justin Trudeau's commitment to this policy will be how his government handles the hurdles to come.

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10 US MD: Bid To Alter Drug Laws And Allow Some Early Prison ReleasesWed, 18 Jan 2017
Source:Baltimore Sun (MD)          Area:Maryland Lines:116 Added:01/18/2017

[photo] A cell at El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in Oklahoma. President Obama toured the prison last week. (Saul Loeb / AFP-Getty Images)

A bipartisan push to reduce the number of low-level drug offenders in prison is gaining momentum in Congress, but proposals may disappoint advocates hoping to slash the mandatory minimum sentences that are seen as chiefly responsible for overcrowding in the nation's detention facilities.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) surprised advocates Thursday by saying he strongly supported holding a vote on a prison reform bill similar to one sponsored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a moderate Republican from Wisconsin. The measure has been languishing in the House Judiciary Committee.

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11 US NY: Pot Grower Serving 20 Years Seeks Clemency From ObamaSun, 15 Jan 2017
Source:Buffalo News (NY)          Area:New York Lines:173 Added:01/15/2017

Joseph Tigano III is spending 20 years in prison for growing marijuana.

He grew a lot of it. No one disputes that. And this was his second felony conviction. So no one, not even Tigano's lawyers, suggests the Cattaraugus County man should go unpunished.

But 20 years?

Even the federal judge who sentenced Tigano in 2015 thought it was too heavy a price to pay.

"It is much greater than necessary," U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford said at the time, "but I do not have a choice."

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12 US: Sessions Hints At Tougher Policy Toward Legalized MarijuanaWed, 11 Jan 2017
Source:Washington Post (DC) Author:Weigel, David Area:United States Lines:134 Added:01/13/2017

In November 2012, people in Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use in their states. Nine months later, as the states worked out their local legal regimes, then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. issued a directive to law enforcement, urging them to let the states' experiments proceed. By the end of 2016, a batch of new states had legalized marijuana, and Holder himself was advocating for marijuana to be "rescheduled" -- meaning that penalties should be lowered for sale and possession across the country.

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13US NY: Cuomo Proposes Decriminalizing MarijuanaThu, 12 Jan 2017
Source:Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (NY) Author:Spector, Joseph Area:New York Lines:Excerpt Added:01/12/2017

ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo is making another pitch for the state to decriminalize possession of some marijuana.

Cuomo quietly included the proposal in a 380-page State of the State message that he provided late Wednesday to the state Legislature.

"The illegal sale of marijuana cannot and will not be tolerated in New York state, but data consistently show that recreational users of marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety," is on Page 191 of Cuomo's message.

The idea will again stoke a debate in Albany after the issue gained prominence in 2012 -- when the Democratic governor first made the push to decriminalize possession of marijuana.

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14 CN ON: Study Injects New Life Into Safe Needle Site DebateThu, 29 Dec 2016
Source:London Free Press (CN ON) Author:Richmond, Randy Area:Ontario Lines:83 Added:12/30/2016

Heavy with needle users, London could move a step closer in February to a supervised injection site for drug-addicted residents amid renewed debate about the idea.

The results of a feasibility study that surveyed 200 current and former needle users, as well as police, politicians, and social service and health agency representatives, is to be released in early February, Christopher Mackie, the Middlesex-London medical officer of health, said Wednesday.

That study won't suggest a location or timeline to establish a site, but one area Conservative MP already is raising the alarm about the possibility.

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15 US PA: Past Approach To Crack Addicts Harsher Than Today's HeroinMon, 12 Dec 2016
Source:Reporter, The (Lansdale, PA) Author:Yates, Riley Area:Pennsylvania Lines:378 Added:12/14/2016

Officials, former inmate contrast the emphasis on treatment vs. incarceration

When Leola Bivins was first sent away for dealing drugs, she was a 22-year-old high school dropout with a 2-year-old daughter at home.

Addiction was the center of the life she knew in East Stroudsburg, where she was born and raised, she recalled recently. Bivins' mother was a heroin addict - she eventually died of an overdose - and seemingly everyone around her was either selling drugs or abusing them, Bivins said.

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16 US IL: OPED: Is Our Constitution Going To Pot?Mon, 12 Dec 2016
Source:Chicago Tribune (IL) Author:Choslovsky, William Area:Illinois Lines:134 Added:12/12/2016

Imagine this: Upon taking his oath of office, President Donald Trump instructs his new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to ignore civil rights laws. How would that go over? Before you yell, "But we are a nation of laws!" you can thank President Barack Obama and his prior Attorney General Eric Holder for magnifying this issue.

Basically, the Obama administration made it standard operating procedure to ignore laws they thought unfashionable or unworthy.

The best example of this is marijuana.

To be clear at the outset, I am neither pro-pot nor anti-pot. And, in fact, marijuana is not even the issue - rather, the Constitution is. Marijuana is just the symptom that exposes the problem.

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17 CN ON: Column: Libs Chip Away At Law And OrderWed, 05 Oct 2016
Source:Ottawa Sun (CN ON) Author:Krayden, David Area:Ontario Lines:91 Added:10/06/2016

Ottawa achieved a dubious distinction over the weekend when the capital saw its 50th shooting of 2016. With a quarter of the year left to go, that beats the previous record of 49 set in 2014.

Now, I am not prepared to invite outrage and opprobrium from the left by suggesting that we might encapsulate the increased violence with the sobriquet of "welcome to Justin Trudeau's Canada." But it does suggest that while Canada enforces some of the toughest gun control legislation in the world, the criminals never have any difficulty in obtaining weapons.

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18 CN ON: Mandatory Minimum Sentences No Longer Seem To ExistWed, 07 Sep 2016
Source:Toronto Sun (CN ON) Author:Mandel, Michele Area:Ontario Lines:103 Added:09/07/2016

There goes another Harper tough-on-crime law out the judicial window. Because, of course, we wouldn't want to be too hard on a woman farming 1,100 pot plants in the middle of a Jane St. highrise apartment building.

In a landmark ruling, an Ontario judge has struck down yet another of the former Conservative government's mandatory minimum sentences as unconstitutional, this time the two-year minimum jail term - with an extra year for endangering public safety - for growing more than 500 marijuana plants.

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19US CA: Column: Obama Churns Out Final-Year PardonsThu, 01 Sep 2016
Source:San Francisco Chronicle (CA) Author:Saunders, Debra J. Area:California Lines:Excerpt Added:09/01/2016

On Tuesday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 111 federal drug offenders.

In his first term, Obama endured the sting of critics like me who called him one of the stingiest modern presidents when it comes to the presidential pardon power.

In his second term, Obama is making up for lost time. With 673 commutations , the Washington Post reports , Obama has approached 690, the number of commutations issued by the previous 11 presidents.

Obama deserves credit for doing the right thing.

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20US: Obama Cuts Short the Sentences of 111 Imprisoned forWed, 31 Aug 2016
Source:Orange County Register, The (CA) Author:Freking, Kevin Area:United States Lines:Excerpt Added:08/31/2016

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama cut short on Tuesday the sentences of 111 federal inmates in another round of commutations for those convicted of nonviolent drug offenses.

Obama has long called for phasing out strict sentences for drug convictions, arguing they lead to excessive punishment and incarceration rates unseen in other developed countries.

White House Counsel Neil Eggleston said the commutations underscored the president's commitment to using his clemency authority to give deserving individuals a second chance. He said that Obama has granted a total of 673 commutations, more than the previous 10 presidents combined. More than a third of the recipients were serving life sentences.

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