Senate Republicans Push a Drug-Free Century Act 1/22/99

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Scott Ehlers, Senior Policy Analyst, Drug Policy Foundation,

Senate Republicans took time out from the impeachment hearings on Tuesday, January 19, to present their newest scheme for creating a drug-free America: S. 5,the Drug-Free Century Act (DFCA), and a slew of individual bills that contain elements of the omnibus DFCA. The omnibus DFCA is "comprehensive" according to the sponsor, Sen. DeWine (R-OH), containing "treatment, education, domestic law enforcement, and drug interdiction."

An analysis of the bill, however, reveals the usual lopsided emphasis on law enforcement, incarceration, interdiction, and asset forfeiture, at the expense of anything that remotely resembles treatment, prevention, and education. The DFCA makes it easier for federal law enforcement to forfeit your boat, even if no drugs are found, and take your assets if you happen to go astray of the ever-expanding anti-money laundering laws.

The DFCA seeks to reduce the crack cocaine/powder cocaine sentencing disparity by making it easier to imprison more people for powder cocaine.

Whereas previously it would take 5 kilograms to receive a 10-year mandatory minimum, if the DFCA is enacted it would only take 500 grams. It also changes the quantity required to receive a five-year mandatory minimum, from 500 grams to 50 grams.

Some of the most interesting elements of the bill are contained in the demand reduction section (Title III). Sec. 3005 prohibits any federal funds from being "expended, directly or indirectly," on syringe exchange programs (SEPs). Passage of such language could wipe out many SEPs in the United States, as many programs depend on federal monies to carry out other parts of their drug and HIV prevention programs.

The DFCA would also:

  • establish a $10,000,000-a-year "incentive grant program" under the Department of Transportation to make it illegal to drive with "any measurable amount" of a controlled substance in your body. Persons convicted of the offense would be "referred to appropriate services, including intervention, counseling, and treatment." Persons convicted of "any criminal offense relating to drugs" would also have their license suspended;
  • fund "innovative voluntary random drug testing programs" under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1994; and
  • promote closed circuit cameras in schools and the expulsion and reporting of students to law enforcement who sell drugs on school grounds.
Finally, DFCA's Drug-Free Families Act attacks "drug legalization advocates," whose political campaigns, according to the bill, have caused drug use to escalate among children. The bill also attacks the advocates of hemp, harm reduction, and controlled drinking.

This section of the DFCA authorizes Thomas Constantine, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, to give the non-profit organization, Parent Collaboration (a subsidiary of National Families in Action, $25 million over five years to reinvigorate the parents' movement of the 1970s.

Did Sue Rusche, Executive Director of National Families in Action, write the Drug-Free Families Act for the Republican Senators? Or does she just have friends in high places, like co-sponsor Sen. Coverdell, who represents her home state of Georgia? Feel free to write Ms. Rusche at [email protected] or Sen. Coverdell at [email protected] and ask them yourself.

The full text and status of federal legislation can be accessed online at

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Issue #75, 1/22/99 Will Foster Parole Denied | Senate Republicans Push a Drug-Free Century Act | New York Mayor Giuliani Reverses Himself on Methadone | California Gubernatorial Candidate Steve Kubby Arrested for Medical Marijuana | Humboldt Residents Testify to Environmental Harm of Anti-Marijuana Helicopters | Editorial: Standing at the Schoolhouse Door
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