Tag Archives: mandatory minimums

Clarification On The End To Medical Marijuana Raids

When the Administration announced an end to medical marijuana raids by the DEA, they abruptly took back the statement a few hours later.  There was a bit of confusion about the new policy.  Eric Holder put an end to that.

Attorney General Eric Holder signaled a change on medical marijuana policy Wednesday, saying federal agents will target marijuana distributors only when they violate both federal and state law.

That would be a departure from the policy of the Bush administration, which targeted medical marijuana dispensaries in California even if they complied with that state’s law.

“The policy is to go after those people who violate both federal and state law,” Holder said in a question-and-answer session with reporters at the Justice Department.

Good.  There is little justification to waste Justice Department resources harassing Californians and Americans in 12 other states engaging in perfectly legal activity.  Holder must follow the law but he also has discretion in setting priorities, and it’s good to see him recognize that arresting local businessmen and their patients makes no sense.  There remain questions about outstanding medical marijuana federal court cases with over two dozen dispensaries, and hopefully the solution will be to drop the charges.

In a related story, Maxine Waters wants to end mandatory minimum sentencing for federal drug offenses, and the bill has 15 co-sponsors.  The Bureau of Prisons budget has increased 25-fold since mandatory minimums were introduced.  Small drug cases belong in state courts, where offenders could be given treatment instead of jail.  Furthermore, these kind of drug cases disproportionately impact minority communities.

H.R. 1466, the Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009, seeks to repeal mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders and to give courts the ability to determine sentences based on all the facts, not just drug weight. It would also refocus federal resources on major drug traffickers instead of low-level offenders. There is currently no companion bill in the Senate.

Sen. Boxer, your office phone is ringing.

Failure on Sentencing Reform a Model for Failure of Legislative Leadership

There will be no sentencing and parole reform coming out of Sacramento this year.  Do you know what that means?  It means that this man will be in our state’s corrections system for the next 12-20 years because military doctors addicted him to opiates.

Sargent Binkley is a high school classmate of ours and West Point graduate who is currently facing twenty-odd years in prison for robbing a Walgreens under California’s minimum sentencing laws. He used a gun (unloaded) and robbed the drugstores of only Percocet – no money, harming nobody.

Here’s the kicker — he was addicted to the opiates after smashing his hip while serving abroad in the Army — the military medical system kept misdiagnosing him, and feeding him more of the painkillers. Add in some serious PTSD (he guarded mass graves in Bosnia from desecration at one point) and he spiraled down.

Sargent turned himself in, has been in a rehab program in county jail for over a year and a half while he awaits sentencing, and by all accounts is doing well. The Santa Clara DA wants to chuck the book at him, and he’ll be gone.

Because the leadership in Sacramento – Republicans and Democrats – have no sense of how to legitimately deal with the crisis in our jails, and would rather look like tough guys and gals while putting sick people in prison.  Sargent Binkley is a sick man.  He needs treatment and aid from a nation which has abandoned him.  Because of our mandatory minimum sentencing law, an angry DA is going to make him spend the next 20 years in a crowded cell.


Sargent was sent to Bosnia after his graduation, where he served as a peacekeeper by guarding the mass graves of genocide victims. From there he was sent to Central America, where he participated in drug interdiction operations. At one point he was ordered to open fire on a truck that contained a civilian teenage boy, an act that haunts him to this day. While on duty in Honduras, he fractured his pelvis and dislocated a hip. This injury was consistently misdiagnosed by Army physicians over the next several years, resulting in chronic pain and an addiction to prescription painkillers.

This is a textbook example of where we are today in Sacramento.  There’s a complete failure of seeing beyond narrow political gamesmanship rather than stepping up to solve problems.  Sentencing commissions have worked all over the country.  They have succeeded in returning corrections systems to its mission, of rehabilitation and treatment.  The current system threatens public safety and needlessly puts sick people behind bars.  If you want to know why nothing gets done in Sacramento, look no further.

It’s beyond obvious that we’re going to have a federal takeover of our prison system.  Schwarzenegger tried to prevent any cap on the population but that was blocked on Tuesday.  The three-judge panel is going to have to take it away from these mewling children who can’t look past their next election to actually do their jobs.

P.S. THE PHARMACIST SARGENT BINKLEY ROBBED is on the record supporting him.  You can support him too.  And one way is to demand that the politicians we elect actually move the state forward instead of this ugly slow motion.  If not, we’ll get new politicians.