Cannabis advocates have yet another new worry, as a zealous Tennessee prosecutor responsible for drafting the Justice Department's recent policy encouraging harsher sentences for criminals is set to focus on marijuana policies. A former cop, Steve Cook is staunchly anti-drug and a strong supporter of mandatory minimum sentences, much like Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Cook is now detailed to the deputy attorney general's office, where he will focus on marijuana, hate crimes, and civil forfeiture.
“This theory that we have embraced since the beginning of civilization is, when you put criminals in prison, crime goes down,” Cook said in a recent interview. “It really is that simple.” Of course, the justice system is not so simple, and many advocates of criminal justice reform have found little evidence to support that theory.
Obama-era Attorney General Eric Holder, who oversaw the first decline in the federal prison population in decades, said that the Justice Department's new policies were “driven by voices who have not only been discredited but until now have been relegated to the fringes of this debate.”
“Steve Cook thinks that everyone who commits a crime ought to be locked up in jail,” said Bill Killian, a defense attorney who often argued cases against the prosecutor in the ‘80s. Killian recalled that Cook always recommended the maximum sentence for criminals, “whatever the maximum could be.”
“You’ve put the arch enemies of criminal justice reform in charge of the U.S. Justice Department, you’ve made the hill a little steep,” Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums said. Ring added that Cook “is out of central casting for old school prosecutors, and he’s nothing if not earnest. I think he is profoundly misguided, but it’s certainly not an act.”