DIANA MARQUEZ HAS spent the last 14 months going on long walks, hitting the treadmill, and cooking with her daughter. She’s gotten to know her grandson, a fourth grader, helping him with his math homework. She has also lived with a weight hanging over her head — and an ankle bracelet strapped to her leg.
Marquez is one of roughly 4,400 people who were released from federal prison to home confinement starting in April 2020 as part of a Department of Justice directive aimed at preventing the transmission of Covid-19 in prison. Normally, the federal government allows people convicted of nonviolent crimes to serve out the last 10 percent or the last six months — whichever is less — of their sentences from home. Their time at home requires strict state scrutiny, including ankle bracelets and daily call-ins. The Department of Justice memorandum, issued under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, asked the Bureau of Prisons to relax the eligibility standards for home confinement so that people convicted of nonviolent crimes could leave prison despite having served less of their sentences.
The status of these people has been in limbo since December, when Justice Department officials from the outgoing Trump administration issued a memo stating that people whose sentences would outlast the Covid-19 emergency order would be returned to prison.
Last week, the New York Times reported that Biden administration lawyers had concluded that the Trump administration memo correctly interpreted the law — and that thousands of people in home confinement must be returned to prison after the yet-to-be-determined end of the “pandemic emergency period.” About 2,000 people stand to be impacted, with the rest having now completed enough of their sentences to qualify for early release under the standard guidance.
The Biden Justice Department’s position is especially shocking for people like Marquez who are doing time for marijuana-related offenses. President Joe Biden, after all, campaigned on loosening drug laws and said that people with marijuana records — who comprise a relatively small percentage of the federal prison population — should be freed.
Yes, you read the lede right. Republicans are asking Biden, a Democrat, to reschedule weed once and for all.
Representatives Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Don Young (R-AK) both serve as co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. They recently sent a letter to Biden asking for rescheduling and claiming the issue is “a matter of public health.”
Despite all the work that has been happening at the state level to legalize medical and recreational cannabis, it is still classified federally as a Schedule I drug in the U.S., as most cannabis enthusiasts well know. This puts it in the same category with drugs like heroin that are known to be much more harmful. The classification means that cannabis has no medical value and a high potential for abuse in the country’s eyes.
“As a Schedule I substance, cannabis is not accepted for medical use on the federal level, which has caused significant research restrictions and continues to thwart the treatment of a wide range of patients, including those suffering from cancer as well as veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and people living with Multiple Sclerosis and seizure disorders,” the letter explains regarding the status of cannabis.
“If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.”H.L. Mencken
According to Harris’ financial disclosure form released Monday, she has been a trustee of the KDH/DCE family trust since 2017. The trust’s assets “are not reportable,” according to the filing, effectively obscuring some of the vice president’s holdings from public view.
The trust is inconsistent with Biden and Harris’ campaign plan to crack down on such vehicles once in office. Biden and Harris pledged to work with Congress to “eliminate the trust loophole in existing financial disclosure law,” and Biden said he would “require that any member of his Administration who is a beneficiary of a discretionary trust disclose all of its holdings.”
It is unclear why Harris does not have to adhere to the pledge and report the assets held in the trust. The vice president’s office did not respond to a request for comment.