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Federal Judge Says He Will No Longer Send People Back to Prison for Smoking Marijuana

A federal judge based out of Brooklyn, New York says he will no longer send people back to prison simply for smoking marijuana.

In a written opinion Jack B. Weinstein, a 96-year-old federal judge in Brooklyn, said that for years he's been sending people who smoked marijuana while on supervised release back to prison. But considering the drug's been legalized in several states and many other places refuse to prosecute people for using it, he says he no longer feels comfortable continuing to do so.

Supervised release is when someone finishes their prison sentence and are allowed to leave, but must continue following the law and abiding by certain conditions or else they'll be sent back.

“Like many federal trial judges, I have been terminating supervision for ‘violations’ by individuals with long-term marijuana habits who are otherwise rehabilitated,” Weinstein wrote. “No useful purpose is served through the continuation of supervised release for many defendants whose only illegal conduct is following the now largely socially acceptable habit of marijuana use.”

Weinstein also noted that the old policy discriminated against African-Americans, who are imprisoned at a much higher rate than other ethnic groups and therefore also more likely to be re-imprisoned for using marijuana.

The judge made this decision in a case involving a man who had previously been imprisoned for selling heroin. After getting out of prison, the man violated his supervised release by using marijuana. Prosecutors asked that he be put back in prison, but Weinstein refused and even ended the man's supervised release, essentially allowing him to live his life without following the rules of parole.

Weinstein isn't the only judge who feels this way. He noted a 2014 survey that found that 85 percent of federal judges believe that they shouldn't be forced to send someone back to prison for using an illegal drug.

(h/t New York Times)


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