Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Stars call on Obama to change drug laws

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LOS ANGELES -- Lil Wayne, Ron Howard, Scarlett Johansson and Kim Kardashian are all on the same page when it comes to criminal justice reform.

They're among more than 100 entertainers calling on the president to focus on changing drug laws. Rap mogul Russell Simmons helped assemble the coalition of celebrities and civil rights leaders that presented a letter to President Barack Obama.

The group praises the president's efforts toward drug incarceration reform but insists "the time is right" to move toward replacing jail sentences with intervention and rehabilitation for non-violent offenders.

The group, which also includes Jennifer Hudson, Nicki Minaj, Susan Sarandon and Will Smith, also asks Obama to form a panel to handle clemency requests and to support a measure that allows judges to waive mandatory minimum sentences.

"It is critical that we change both the way we think about drug laws in this country and how we generate positive solutions that leave a lasting impact on rebuilding our communities," Simmons said, citing Department of Justice data that shows that the United States jails more of its citizens than any other country in the world.

Drug offenders comprise nearly half the federal prison population in the United States.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 10, 2013 D2

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