Sunday, August 07, 2016

From the Archives: Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring highlights opposition to drug-law reform

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on September 14, 2014. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site was scheduled to go dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring highlights opposition to drug-law reform

After welcoming participants to the third annual Charlottesville gay pride celebration in Lee Park on Saturday, September 13, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring answered questions from reporters.

In addition to discussing his views on same-sex marriage and sexual orientation discrimination, Herring addressed concerns about drug abuse and proposed reforms to drug laws.

Earlier this month, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which includes among its members former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, as well as the former presidents of Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, recommended to the United Nations that currently illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana should be decriminalized and that the abuse of these drugs should be treated as a health problem not as a criminal matter.

'Deaths and fatalities'
Acknowledging that he has not read the UN commission's report, Herring, a Democrat elected in 2013, said that “as attorney general, one of the first things I did in coming to office is go on a public safety tour all across the Commonwealth. I talked to over 60 different jurisdictions – the law enforcement, commonwealth's attorneys, local elected officials – because I wanted to hear directly from them about the public safety threats that they were facing.

“Over and over in those meetings, one of the things I heard was the problems associated with opiate addiction, prescription drug addiction, and the spike in heroin overdoses and deaths and fatalities.”

Herring said that, based upon what he learned from local officials, “I want to go after those who would put that kind of poison, [such as] potent, deadly heroin, out on the streets. I'm going to aggressively prosecute that and work with local prosecutors to do it. We're going to step up our prevention and education efforts and we're going to partner with local jurisdictions and the U.S. Attorney's office to combat the problem of drug abuse.”

'Not trying to be evasive'
Asked specifically if he opposes drug-law reform efforts, Herring said flatly: “I don't support legalizing all of those dangerous drugs like heroin and opiates that are killing and claiming so many lives of young people.”

With regard to marijuana legalization, Herring hesitated and added, “I'm not trying to be evasive. I know a couple of states have begun to take those steps and before Virginia takes those steps I think we ought to see what [are] the experiences in the other states and then assess it.”

That position is almost identical to that of Herring's predecessor as attorney general, Republican Ken Cuccinelli.

In February 2013, when he was running for governor, Cuccinelli explained to an audience of Albemarle County Republicans that “having data from a couple of states, whole states, that go down this path may not be good news but it will be interesting and it will be something we can learn from,"

Cuccinelli added that legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington state is “a peculiar subject but I do think it's important that states try some things they think are appropriate and whether the federal government approves or not, the rest of us watch and learn.”


Ken Cuccinelli clarifies remarks on marijuana legalization as federalism issue
GOP lieutenant governor candidate E. W. Jackson 'certainly used marijuana'
Justin Bieber, Gary Becker, and the future of marijuana prohibition
Virginia Congressman Morgan Griffith clarifies aim of his medical marijuana bill
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring discusses federal gay marriage appeals

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