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Opinion: change needed now on federal marijuana laws

Families Against Mandatory Minimums is a national advocacy group focused upon sentencing reform in the criminal justice system. Mike Riggs is the organization's communications director.

Unsurprisingly, Riggs has something to communicate, and he does so with passion and conviction in a recent CNN article. It is immediately apparent what the thrust of Riggs' argument is from his reference to "the cognitive dissonance of America's drug penalties."

Here's what Riggs means by that. Arguably, and for many people, it was hard to understand the logic behind locking up nonviolent drug offenders for lengthy periods on marijuana-related charges even when the tenor of the country was different from what prevails now. It is hard for any reasonable person to argue that a majority of Americans presently favors a criminal law policy that still allows for so-called mandatory minimum sentencing that often yields decades-long prison terms for even first offenders.

While such persons are locked up, they fail to contribute to society, of course, and taxpayers foot the bill for their upkeep. Moreover, many people see a moral dilemma presented by a sentencing regime that often hands out life terms to drug offenders.

Riggs says that the absurdity of federal pot laws is further underscored by the recent legalization of recreational pot in two states, as well as the progressively relaxed attitudes toward marijuana possession in many pockets across the country.

The recent history and growing trend renders it simply freakish in Riggs' view that individuals in some states can now legally grow, sell and possess pot, while residents doing the exact same thing in other states can be confined to a cell for years on end.

We'll have a bit more to say about America's marijuana laws and what the future might hold in our next blog post.

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