Drug Law

Appeal to DOJ: Furlough Marijuana Offenders Before Violent Convicts

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WASHINGTON — Today, Aaron Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies.

In that testimony, he asked the subcommittee to urge the Department of Justice to encourage states that furlough prisoners because of budget crunches “to certify that no inmates convicted of crimes of violence, including sexual abuse and assault, will be released before non-violent offenders whose sole offense relates to the possession, sale, or manufacture of marijuana.”

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On March 31, the Associated Press reported a disturbing trend: “Inmates convicted of violent crimes are among those being freed early from California jails to save money, despite lawmakers’ promises that they would exclude most dangerous prisoners and sex offenders … An Associated Press review of inmate data shows that some of the freed criminals were convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, battery, domestic violence, and attacks on children and the elderly.”

The A.P. noted that similar programs were initiated or expanded in a dozen other states: Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

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Houston asked the subcommittee to urge the Department of Justice to consider conditioning grant awards to states and municipal correctional systems on their certification that no inmates convicted of crimes of violence will have been furloughed before non-violent marijuana offenders.

“Prioritizing the release of people whose only crime is marijuana-related just makes sense,” Houston said.