IN 2013, Eric Holder, then the attorney-general, issued a memo telling prosecutors to avoid charging certain defendants—such as non-violent offenders who were not members of drug gangs—with offences that would hand them long prison sentences. On May 11th, Jeff Sessions rescinded that policy, suggesting that prosecutors “pursue the most serious, readily provable offence.”

Mr Sessions’s memo constitutes the first big criminal justice effort by the Trump administration to get tough on drugs. It had already made it clear that it would be tougher on drug offenders than Barack Obama's administration. In particular it has set its sights on creeping legalisation to legalise marijuana: nine states have authorised its sale for recreational use. Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, has suggested the administration will pursue tougher enforcement of federal laws against use of the drug. And on April 5th, Mr Sessions released a memo explaining that his new Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety will “undertake a review of existing policies in the areas of charging, sentencing, and marijuana to ensure consistency with the Department's overall strategy on reducing violent crime and with Administration goals and priorities.”  In a recent meeting with reporters, Mr Sessions warned that “experts are telling me there's more violence around marijuana than one would think.”

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