With the current state of the American criminal justice system, civil rights and the relationship between law enforcement and the public — particularly people of color — it was no surprise that it took a few months for the DOJ’s Public Safety and Crime Reduction task force to get to cannabis.
But as the task force prepares to tackle the issue, one of the folks at its helm — Eastern Tennessee Career Prosecutor, Steven H. Cook — just reminded the Associated Press how much he hates drugs in general.
According to the AP, Cook’s harsh take on drug prosecution comes from when he was an active duty police officer on patrol and came across a family whose station wagon had been hit head-on by a “pilled-up drug user.”
And when it comes to prison reform, don’t expect Cook to sign off on reduced sentences or less prisoners.
“This theory that we have embraced since the beginning of civilization is, when you put criminals in prison, crime goes down,” he told The Associated Press during a recent interview. “It really is that simple.”
Many policy experts and publications have highlighted the DOJ’s rhetorical return to hardcore Reagan-era war on drugs policy, and mot considered Cook to be one of AG Jeff Sessions’ most reliable tools for implementing it.
From Reason :
At a Washington Post summit on criminal justice Tuesday, one could hear many thoughtful, earnest critiques of how the U.S. administers justice, and how it could be better. Or you could listen to Steve Cook, the head of the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys.
The task force is being led by the Deputy Attorney General’s office, but D.C. insiders tell Cannabis Now that Cook is effectively Jeff Sessions right-hand man now and that policy recommendations coming from the task force will likely need his stamp to get to the finish line.
The area where he could have the biggest impact on pot is the Cole Memo. Since 2013, the Cole Memo has directed prosecutors not to interfere with state legal facilities engaged in the plant’s production and sale.
Two years ago during his objection to a swath of sentence commutations from President Obama, Cook was asked if he thought state-legal cannabis businesses in Colorado and Washington should be prosecuted against and face mandatory minimums. At the time, he declined to give an answer.
The two schools of thought so far on the issue are, “how can an old school ardent drug warrior possibly get it when it comes to revamping cannabis policy,” and, “well they haven’t kicked the door in yet, right?”
NORML’s Political Director Justin Strekal was one of the first voices to respond to the Cook AP interview
“Steve Cook and Jeff Sessions are advocating for the failed policies of the ‘Just Say No’ era — policies that resulted in the arrests of millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens who possessed personal use amounts of marijuana,” he said. “At a time when the majority of states now regulate marijuana use, and where six out of 10 votes endorse legalizing the plant’s use by adults, it makes no sense from a political, fiscal, or cultural perspective to try to put this genie back in the bottle.”
Strekal added that the real power of change is in the hands of Congress.
“[It’s] high time that members of Congress take action to conform federal law with majority public opinion and the plant’s rapidly changing legal and cultural status,” he said.
Over at the Marijuana Policy Project, Director of Federal Policies, Robert J. Capecchi, doesn’t believe the sky is falling just yet.
“As it relates to marijuana, he seems to be in the mold of his boss, AG Sessions,” he said. “That said, I don’t think that means we’ll automatically see an aggressive posture from the DOJ toward individuals and regulated businesses acting in compliance with state laws.”
Capecchi believes neither Cook nor Sessions are what you would call a fan of the policy shift, but the department itself seems to actually be giving these laws a fair look before determining how it will proceed.
“Any honest assessment of the marijuana laws in Colorado, Washington, etc. — and their results, to date — has to lead to the conclusion that they have been very successful by any number of measures.”
TELL US, do you think Cook and the task force will overturn the Cole Memo?