Two members of a criminal justice task force organized by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and former rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) recently discussed why they feel the criminalization of marijuana is an untenable policy, with one—a former U.S. attorney general—suggesting that even drugs such as opioids and cocaine should be removed from the criminal justice system’s purview.
Another member, who is also a former federal prosecutor, argued that the former vice president’s proposal to decriminalize marijuana is insufficient and should be replaced with a call for broader cannabis legalization.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder said in a C-SPAN appearance last week that racial disparities in drug enforcement have long been a problem, and the solution is to treat such offenses as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice one.
“Think about the crack epidemic and how we dealt with it there. We made it a criminal justice problem, we prosecuted people, we put people in jail,” he said. “Now we’re dealing with the opioid situation and now we’ve declared it—and I think correctly so and I’m not saying this is wrong—but we declared it a public health problem. Two different bodies of people—people perceived as being involved in crack, the use of crack and the use of opioids. It’s a racial component there.”