It's well known that Vanita Gupta, whom Eric Holder recently named as acting head of the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, supports pot decriminalization. However, as conservative blogger Cully Stinson points out, she'd actually like to see all drugs decriminalized. Stinson would have you believe that's a bad thing.
Writing at the Daily Signal, he points to a blog post Gupta and fellow ACLU attorney Ezekiel Edwards published on the Huffington Post in 2012 called "It's Time to Discuss Criminal Justice Reform." In it, the pair lucidly argues a series of very reasonable points: criminal justice shouldn't be tied up in politics; the drug war led to incarceration of people on a scale never before seen in the U.S.; a disproportionate number of those people are not white; and despite all that, the number of drug users in America hasn't really decreased.
From those arguments they propose a number of reforms that would help remedy the situation, one of which reads:
Decriminalize/"Defelonize" Drug Possession. States should decriminalize simple possession of all drugs, particularly marijuana, and for small amounts of other drugs.
"In calling for all drugs to be decriminalized–essentially legalizing all dangerous drugs," Stinson writes, "Gupta displays a gross lack of understanding of the intrinsic dangers of these drugs when consumed in any quantity."
Except that "essentially legalizing all dangerous drugs," as fun as that sounds, is not at all what Gupta and Edwards are arguing for. Decriminalizing drugs—removing mandatory minimum sentences, giving people fines instead of jail time for nonviolent offenses, slapping them on the wrists instead of ruining their lives—isn't a particularly radical idea. Even Republican boy wonder Rand Paul basically supports it.
Surely, Stinson understands this, but painting Gupta as someone who'd like to see heroin flowing freely in the streets will make it easier for Obama's opponents to block her confirmation in the Senate, just as they did Debo Adegbile, the previous appointee, by making him into a cop-killer.
President Obama has made clear that he will nominate Gupta to lead DOJ's Civil Rights Division permanently. She's been widely received as an excellent choice—supporters as unlikely as Grover Norquist and former NRA head David Keene sang her praises this month—but despite what you might hope and Republicans like Stinson might fear, she's not going to magically make all drugs legal.
[Image via ACLU]