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Would Loretta Lynch Support Ineffective Federal Drug Policy?

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Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), says that Loretta Lynch unwittingly made the case for legalization of marijuana during her confirmation hearing for attorney general

ANGEL ELLIOTT, TRNN PRODUCER: I’m Angel Elliott at The Real News Network in Baltimore.

Where marijuana is concerned, it looks like all isn’t good in the hood when it comes to President Barack Obama’s nominee for attorney general, Loretta Lynch. When asked her opinion of the federally illegal drug, she said that she shared the same opinion as her predecessor, Eric Holder, and would not support the legalization of marijuana.

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SENATOR: Now, do you believe and do you support legalization of marijuana?

LORETTA LYNCH, NOMINEE FOR U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Senator, I do not. Not only do I not support the legalization of marijuana; it is not the position of the Department of Justice currently to support the legalization, nor would it be the position should I become confirmed as attorney general.

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ELLIOTT: Joining us to weigh in on this subject is Law Enforcement Against Prohibition executive director Neill Franklin. He’s a 33-year police veteran who’s led multijurisdictional and antinarcotics task force for the Maryland State Police and ran training centers for the BPD and the Maryland State Police.

Thanks for joining us, Neill.

NEILL FRANKLIN, EXEC. DIR., LEAP: Great to be here, Angel.

ELLIOTT: Now, in Loretta Lynch’s confirmation hearing yesterday, Senator Jeff Sessions read her this quote that President Obama said, where he said that alcohol isn’t–marijuana isn’t much more dangerous than alcohol, and he actually partook in it in his youth, along with cigarettes. And she proceeded to say that she did not share the president’s views, and if confirmed as attorney general, then she would uphold the DOJ stance, where marijuana is legal. So your thoughts.

FRANKLIN: Well, I would think that it’s probably something that she feels she has to say. I hope that she has a little bit more information and education on this topic, as being the new top cop for the country.

The issue here for me isn’t really whether or not alcohol is safer or marijuana is safer or whatever. It’s about policy that doesn’t work. And that’s something that she needs to be very familiar with. Is the policy effective, or is it problematic? And I think that the country right now realizes that the problem is far more problematic than the use or possible abuse could ever be of marijuana. That’s why the majority of the people in this country want to move forward in a different direction other than a prohibition of marijuana.

ELLIOTT: Right. In fact, ten states are looking at legalizing marijuana as well. And you know what happened in D.C. That measure was struck down. So do you think that she won’t be a game-changing attorney general, where legalizing marijuana is concerned? Or will she just follow tradition?

FRANKLIN: Well, from this testimony it doesn’t appear that she’s going to be a game changer for ending the prohibition of marijuana or for those states that are electing to move forward in a different direction than currently. We have four right now–Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon. And hopefully D.C. will be allowed to come on board here soon. I think they will.

I just hope that she realizes that these laboratories that we have, the state laboratories that we have in our country, are extremely important to making this change that needs to happen. If she just realizes that and allows for the Cole Memo to remain in effect with those eight areas of priority that the Department of Justice under Eric Holder has put forth for these state laboratories like Colorado, if she allows that to remain in place, then I think we’ll continue to move in the right direction.

In my opinion, she doesn’t have to be this maverick out there championing for this policy change. Just allow the citizens to do state-by-state what they feel is necessary for their communities.

ELLIOTT: She also said that marijuana leads to crime and criminalization. Your thoughts on that.

FRANKLIN: Well, the way she put it, talking about money laundering and the violence and the criminal enterprise surrounding the marijuana industry, she really just made the case for legalization. If you don’t want money laundering, put it into a regulated market. Okay? If you don’t want violence in your streets from gangs competing against each other, put it into a regulated market. We don’t have these problems with the regulated market of alcohol and tobacco. So she made the case for ending the prohibition of marijuana during her testimony.

ELLIOTT: Right. What should she have been asked? She was asked if she supported it. She was asked if she followed what President Barack Obama said. What should she have been asked in that hearing where marijuana is concerned?

FRANKLIN: Well, if I were one of those representatives sitting there asking these questions, I’d ask her a question like, so, can you tell us how you feel about the states that have moved forward with a different policy of ending the prohibition of marijuana? How do you feel about those laboratories? How do you feel about this change? Is it something that we should allow to proceed?

I think instead of asking questions where she could pretty much respond with a yes or no answer, ask for little bit more substance here. How does she feel about what’s occurring now? And I think it’s very critical to get that response from her, because this is very important. You’ve got these states that are moving forward and demonstrating, acting on what people want. And to have a new top cop for the country come in and say either yes, continue, or no, we’re going to stop it all or try to stop at all, that could be very problematic. So I think those are the questions. That’s one of the questions she should have been asked.

ELLIOTT: And I actually have a question. Do you think that the DOJ is behind times where marijuana is concerned? It’s obviously, like you said, the will of the people, a lot of the people, to have it be–to have the prohibition ended. Do you think that they’re behind the times? And what is it going to take for them to understand that this is a ball that’s going to keep rolling?

FRANKLIN: Well, I’ll speak to one part of the Department of Justice, and that’s the DEA. They’re way behind. Now, the reason for them being behind, or at least not wanting to change and move forward, well, that’s questionable. I think that they have built a dynasty. To hear now that they are looking at data from vehicle license plate readers, that they have this huge database that they’re tapping into all in the name of the drug war, continuing the drug war, I think they’re pushing us further, attempting to push us further and further behind and keep us in this dark place absent of change, needed change.

I’m just grateful for the people of this country who realize that we need to put in place a different policy, one that is going to be safer for our communities, where we’re no longer imprisoning certain groups of people, our black and brown citizens.

Now, Loretta Lynch, she’s up in New York. I mean, is she really saying or indicating that we should maintain the practices that the NYPD has been using over the past few years, like stop and frisk, all the name of weed, marijuana? I certainly hope not. So the Department of Justice under Eric Holder, we were seeing some glimmers of light. I sure hope that nobody’s pulling down the shades right now. I don’t know. I hope her testimony is not going to be reflective of her real position on this issue.

ELLIOTT: Thanks so much for joining us.

FRANKLIN: Thank you, Angel.

ELLIOTT: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.