Marijuana Sentencing Reform Guidelines Get DOJ SupportPosted by On

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) held a public hearing on proposed amendments to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

During Wednesday’s public hearing, Phillip Talbert, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California expressed his support for the inclusion of simple possession of marijuana convictions as a reason for downward departure, without any intent to distribute or sell.

When issuing sentences, federal judges must take prior convictions, such as state-level cannabis offenses, into account as aggravating factors. However, with the growing number of states legalizing cannabis, supporters are advocating for updated guidelines that prevent an individual’s history with marijuana from leading to more severe sentences.

In legal terms, a downward departure is when a federal judge issues a sentence for a defendant that is less severe than the minimum sentence recommended by the sentencing guidelines.

Talbert noted that the commission’s proposal is in line with President Biden’s views that individuals should not be incarcerated for simple possession of marijuana, as stated in his October pardon proclamation, and takes into consideration the numerous jurisdictions that have decriminalized personal use of marijuana possession.

The DOJ recommended that judges take into consideration several factors, including the quantity and packaging of marijuana, the presence of large amounts of money, firearms and other indications of drug trafficking.

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