Newsbrief: Bill Introduced in Congress Would Mandate Ten Years to Life for Some Marijuana Sales 7/2/04

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Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill June 14 that would radically increase mandatory minimum prison sentences for anyone furnishing any controlled substance, including marijuana, to a minor or to anyone who has been in drug treatment before. It would also create mandatory minimum life sentences for a second offense, as well as creating mandatory minimum sentences for furnishing drugs in a designated "drug-free zone."

Under current federal law, distribution to a minor carries a one-year mandatory minimum sentence; Sensenbrenner's bill would raise that to 10 years. Similarly, drug sales within a "drug-free zone" currently nets a mandatory minimum one-year sentence; Sensenbrenner's bill would raise that to five years. It also expands the definition of "drug-free zones" from schools, college campuses, and video arcade facilities (!?) to include "public library, or public or private daycare facility," and drug treatment facilities.

The bill would also order the US Sentencing Commission to make appropriate adjustments in its sentencing guidelines. Telling the Sentencing Commission and federal judges what to do is familiar business for Rep. Sensenbrenner, who helped ensure the passage last year of the much-criticized Feeney Amendment, which restricts federal judges' ability to grant downward departures from the harsh federal sentencing guidelines.

But, hey, don't say Sensenbrenner lacks compassion. The bill also includes relief for snitches or, in Sensenbrenner's language, a provision "assuring limitation on applicability of statutory minimums to persons who have done everything they can to assist the government."

The bill, which is euphemistically titled "Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act of 2004" (H.R. 4547), so far has no cosponsors. To read the bill online, go to and type in "H.R. 4547" in the search box. Visit for an analysis by Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

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Issue #344, 7/2/04 Editorial: Under Its Own Weight | Supreme Court Ruling Portends Massive Changes in Federal Sentencing -- Thousands Could Benefit from Reduced Sentences, Early Releases on Appeal | Federal Judge Declares Sentencing Guidelines Unconstitutional | Supreme Court to Hear Federal Government Appeal in California Medical Marijuana Case | International Anti-Drugs Day Marked by Executions in China, "Revolutionary Justice" in India, Silly Stuff Elsewhere | DRCNet Book Review: "Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945-2000" by Martin Torgoff (Simon & Schuster, 2004, 474 Pages, Notes/Bibliography/Index, $27.95) | Newsbrief: Bill Introduced in Congress Would Mandate Ten Years to Life for Some Marijuana Sales | Newsbrief: New Jersey Needle Exchange Battle Continues | Newsbrief: Iran Wants to Ban Water Pipes | Newsbrief: European Drug Agency Punctures "Not Your Father's Marijuana" Myth | Newsbrief: North Carolina Supreme Court Settles Dispute, Declares Cocaine Possession Is a Felony | Media Scan: Ethan Nadelmann in National Review | This Week in History | The Reformer's Calendar

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