The Senate confirmed the nomination of Loretta Lynch to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General in a 56-43 vote this afternoon. The results of the vote have been highly anticipated, as significant partisan bickering has stalled her appointment for months. Lynch is the first African-American woman to hold the office of Attorney General, the nation’s top law enforcement position and head of the Department of Justice. Her statements made in the Senatorial confirmation hearing indicate she intends to follow Holder’s legacy of prioritizing civil rights. Criminal justice experts hope this means she will continue and expand the drug policy reforms enacted by her predecessor.
“Loretta Lynch will hopefully continue the more positive aspects of Eric Holder’s legacy,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a criminal justice group opposed to the drug war. “We hope she continues to restore sanity and dignity to the profession of policing by de-escalating the War on Drugs and allowing states to proceed with marijuana legalization.”
Loretta Lynch is well known for her work with the team of prosecutors who charged NYPD officers for the brutal assault of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in 1997. But opponents questioned her nomination after she failed to criminally charge HSBC bank leaders for laundering money for drug cartels and other terrorist organizations, despite the banks’ own guilty admission.
During Eric Holder’s six year term, he opened investigations into the misuse of force and racial profiling by Ferguson police in the aftermath of the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, as well as other investigations into corrupt law enforcement practices. Holder has also reduced federal penalties for non-violent drug offenders and has been outspoken about a need to rethink the War on Drugs. In August 2013, Holder released a memo stating that the Department of Justice would no longer go after states that choose to legalize marijuana, so long as the new resulting businesses abide by certain guidelines such as not selling to minors and not being involved in organized criminal activity. Additionally, given a stipulation in the recently passed federal “cromnibus” spending bill, the DOJ can no longer go after states that permit medical marijuana.
LEAP is committed to ending decades of failed policy that have created underground markets and gang violence, fostered corruption and racism, and largely ignored the public health crisis of addiction. The war on drugs has cost more than one trillion dollars, yielded only disastrous outcomes, and ultimately diverted the penal system’s attention away from more important crimes.