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Eric E. Sterling
Eric E. Sterling, Executive Director of the non-profit Criminal Justice Policy Foundation in Silver Spring, MD, was counsel to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, principally responsible for anti-drug legislation, from 1979 to 1989.

Entries by Eric E. Sterling

National Crime Victims Week Ignores the Greatest Source of Victims

(3) Comments | Posted April 11, 2016 | 5:14 PM

The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) has declared this week to be National Crime Victims' Rights Week. To mark the occasion, OVC has published a helpful resource guide for crime victims. But if we truly want to respect crime victims, we need to raise two key issues...

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Obama Should Use His Power to Pardon Prisoners, Not Turkeys

(38) Comments | Posted November 24, 2015 | 3:33 PM

At the White House, the public relations team is finishing President Barack Obama's ceremonial "pardon" of one or two of the turkeys for a cute photo-op with the President's family, as he has done six times as president. I suspect poultry purveyors have been jockeying for the honor...

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How Can Obama Fulfill His Pledges for Sweeping Criminal Justice Reform and Redeem His Policy Legacy?

(43) Comments | Posted July 29, 2015 | 7:34 PM

In a July 14 speech to the NAACP, President Obama proposed sweeping reform of America's criminal justice system, and I am thrilled. Between this groundbreaking speech, his unprecedented visit to a federal prison on July 16 and tomorrow's announcement that he will make Pell...

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Republican-Controlled House Backs Obama Rules Enabling Marijuana Banking

(0) Comments | Posted July 16, 2014 | 7:24 PM

If you run a medical marijuana dispensary, or a legal marijuana business in Colorado, how do you get paid? Federal laws enacted during the war on drugs in the 1980s barred banks from doing business with "drug traffickers."

If your bank found out that your health center was a medical...

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Obama Promises Massive Drug Policy Reform

(0) Comments | Posted July 15, 2014 | 4:20 PM

Coauthored by Amos Irwin, Chief of Staff of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation

Released on Wednesday, the Obama administration's 2014 National Drug Control Strategy announces large-scale drug policy reform in response to an urgent crisis: Our 40-year War on Drugs has incarcerated so many people on non-violent drug...

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Sasha Shulgin Thought I Was an Idiot... Once Upon a Time

(0) Comments | Posted June 16, 2014 | 5:43 PM

In July 1992, I met Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin, the brilliant Bay Area chemist and creator of psychedelic drugs, who died June 2. He was a wonderful guy -- funny and clever, loving, honest, courageous and loyal.


I encourage you to read remembrances...

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Is Sentencing Reform Debate a Move Toward Drug Legalization?

(1) Comments | Posted April 21, 2014 | 7:14 PM

Today, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in his video speech of the week, has said that federal drug sentences are too long, and that he is hiring a dozen attorneys to process the applications for presidential commutation of sentence that...

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Is Obama Channeling Mandela?

(2) Comments | Posted December 20, 2013 | 7:17 PM

On December 19, 2013, President Obama shortened the prison sentences of eight federal prisoners. Hooray! I have been urging him to do this for thousands of federal prisoners since he was elected.

Perhaps these commutations were inspired by Obama's eulogy at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela...

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A Strategy to Stop Killing Kids and Babies on Our Streets? Think Drug Legalization

(10) Comments | Posted December 15, 2013 | 2:08 PM


There has been a fruitless debate about "guns" after the school shooting tragedy in Newtown, CT in 2012, according to a smart commentary by Richard Feldman, head of the Independent Firearm Owners Association (IFOA), published in USAToday (Dec. 12,...

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Edward H. Jurith, 1951- 2013, Attorney, White House Drug Policy Leader

(5) Comments | Posted November 21, 2013 | 12:42 PM


Edward H. Jurith, a key figure in American drug policy making since the 1980s, died peacefully at home in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, November 9, 2013. Ed has been my friend since 1981.

Ed served at very senior levels...

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Horrifying New Drugs! Does New Zealand's New Synthetic Drug Law Offer a Safer Way Forward?

(15) Comments | Posted October 15, 2013 | 5:53 PM

Time magazine warns "The World's Most Horrifying Drug May Have Claimed Its First U.S. Victim." The horror of this "new" drug, "krokodil," is that it "eats the skin" of those who use it.

Why would anyone use drugs with all their risks, let alone an untested new...

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Holder to Justice Department: Hands Off Legal Marijuana

(37) Comments | Posted August 29, 2013 | 3:45 PM

On August 29, 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder called the governors of Washington and Colorado to tell them that the Justice Department would not block their state's implementation of voter passed legal recreational marijuana programs. Justice will cooperate with the states, even though federal law still...

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I Owed Drug Czar Kerlikowske an Apology

(3) Comments | Posted August 12, 2013 | 6:17 PM

When I broke the news on Huffington Post on August 2 that White House "drug czar" Gil Kerlikowske was leaving, having been nominated to serve as Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, I insulted Mr. Kerlikowske and dismissed his record on matters I did not review, relying on...

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Drug Czar Kerlikowske on His Way Out

(44) Comments | Posted August 2, 2013 | 1:54 PM

Corrections below.
This morning, President Obama nominated Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, to be the Customs Commissioner.

Kerlikowske has been an unimaginative drug czar, often invisible. Having come from Seattle, Washington where he had been police chief, he was shrouded with hope...

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Obama's Justice Department Is Sending More People of Color to Prison on Drug Charges

(92) Comments | Posted June 18, 2013 | 9:47 AM

You would think that Eric Holder, the first African American Attorney General, and Barack Obama, the first African American President, would be vigilant that there was no racial discrimination in the Justice Department of their Administration. You would think.

The press, the Congress, the courts, and the Administration have all...

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Why Did the Boston Marathon Bombers Seem So Normal? They Smoked Pot!

(49) Comments | Posted May 2, 2013 | 6:48 PM

Most of us remain mystified that Dzhokhar "Jahar" Tsarnaev was one of the Boston Marathon bombers -- he seemed so normal, so American. He was a high school athlete -- wrestling team co-captain -- and for many years lived a seemingly ordinary life with typical ambitions.

What is most striking...

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420 and the Tipping Point on Marijuana Policy

(28) Comments | Posted April 20, 2013 | 5:34 PM

Not every new invention is adopted. Not every new product succeeds in the market place. Not every good public policy becomes law.

In 1962, Everett Rogers published Diffusion of Innovations that laid out the theories of the spread of new products and ideas that is the hallmark of contemporary American...

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"Crucifying" the "Other"

(14) Comments | Posted April 1, 2013 | 2:31 PM

In the 1980s, Hilary Rosen was lobbying for the City of San Francisco's programs of health care for gays and lesbians (and drug users) with HIV and AIDS, she writes in the Washington Post Friday, March 29, 2013. Sen Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) warned her that she should not...

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Shafer Commission Report on Marijuana and Drugs, Issued 40 Years Ago Today, Was Ahead of its Time

(46) Comments | Posted March 21, 2013 | 3:53 PM

Forty years ago on March 22, 1973, the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse* said in its final report:

"A coherent social policy requires a fundamental alteration of social attitudes toward drug use, and a willingness to embark on new courses when previous actions have failed."

Social attitudes...

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Congress on Speed: Partisan Conflict Led to Many Problems in 1986 Drug Law

(2) Comments | Posted November 1, 2011 | 12:51 PM

Today, the 112th Congress is stalled, mired in partisan conflict. Last week, the votes of 43 Republican senators blocked the proposal of Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) to create a National Criminal Justice Commission to study and recommend improvements to the criminal justice system. But in the 111th Congress, the proposal...

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