What Obama's drug law reforms will (and won't) do

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder is announcing a pretty big change in the way the Justice Department prosecutes minor drug cases. The new approach is meant to send fewer low-level, nonviolent drug users to federal prison, part of a broader effort to reduce America’s bulging prison population.

The headline change seem pretty minor — Holder is ordering federal prosecutors to stop writing down the amount of drugs in certain types of small-fry cases — but the effect could be pretty dramatic. Federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws enacted in the 1980s and ’90s make it so judges and juries have to hand down tough sentences for some relatively minor infractions.

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