Newsbrief: Rep. Souder Busily Fighting the "Good" Fight 11/26/04

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Indiana Republican Congressman Mark Souder just can't get enough of the war on drugs. While Souder is best known as the author of the Higher Education Act's (HEA) anti-drug provision, which bars students with drug offenses from receiving federal financial aid, and is in the midst of an effort to "fix" that law so it only applies to people in school when their busts occurred, that has not stopped him from attempting to intervene in any number of other drug war issues.

Just two weeks ago, Souder was busy threatening Canada over pending legislation there that would reduce penalties for marijuana possession ( Under the Canadian proposal, people possessing less than a half-ounce of marijuana would only be fined and not stuck with a criminal record. If Canada went that route, Souder warned, it could see border slowdowns and other nastiness from the Americans. Never mind that next door in Ohio, people can possess up to a quarter-pound of pot with only a ticket.
A street debate with former SSDP national director Shawn Heller got Rep. Souder unfavorable publicity.
One would think that busily keeping minor drug offenders out of college and threatening close allies over minor reforms would be enough to keep the self-described evangelical Christian congressman busy. One would be wrong. Using his perch as head of the drug policy subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee, Souder is speaking out on everything from methamphetamines to medical marijuana.

This week, Souder and five other Republican lawmakers filed a friend of the court brief in the landmark Raich v. Ashcroft medical marijuana case urging the Supreme Court to reject states' rights arguments and uphold the use of the interstate commerce clause as a tool for federal raids on medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in that case Monday.

Souder warned that a Supreme Court failure to uphold that reasoning would lead to a lessening of the federal government's ability to write and enforce national laws. "We've always had federal narcotics laws because of the Interstate Commerce Clause. This is a challenge that says states can not only change the schedule of prohibited drugs but they can override the Interstate Commerce Clause," he told the Indianapolis Star.

In his brief to the court, Souder warned that even limited permission to use medical marijuana "would undermine drug regulation by giving drug traffickers a new strategy to evade arrest, creating geographic 'safe havens' for drug dealers to base their operations, increasing the risk of diversion from 'medical' use to purely recreational trafficking, increasing the supply and lowering the price of marijuana and potentially increasing the demand for the drug through reduced public perception of marijuana's harms."

That same week, the conservative congressman was also focused on methamphetamines. In a November 18 interview with the Oregonian newspaper, which recently ran a series of special reports on the drug, Souder said his subcommittee is working on a comprehensive package of anti-meth legislation to be introduced in the next session of Congress. That same day, Souder's subcommittee held a hearing in Washington to examine strategies for stopping the spread of the stimulant.

With meth having pushed its way East across the continent in recent years, the political will to enact tough legislation is growing, Souder said. "Now is the time we push. You've now reached a threshold. It's crossed the Mississippi," Souder said of the drug's rapid spread. "You have a majority of Congress now interested in this. Meth has not been a focus," Souder said. "Everybody's scrambling to catch up with what is happening at the ground level."

Look for new, repressive legislation to emerge from Souder's committee shortly. It should be a combination of increased penalties for meth possession and manufacture and new restrictions on the chemical precursors used to make the stuff.

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Issue #364 , 11/26/04

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items


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Editorial: Epic and Turbulent Times | DRCNet Event: Rep. Barney Frank to Keynote for Perry Fund Forum/Fundraiser, December 9, 2004, Boston | Seeking Political Traction, Britain's Blair Marches Boldly Backwards on Drug Policy | SSDP Does College Park: Sixth Annual National Conference Shows Off a Maturing Organization | Newsbrief: Pennsylvania "Treatment and Jail" Sentencing Reform Gets Governor's Signature | Newsbrief: Polls Find Canadian Majority Favoring Marijuana Legalization | Newsbrief: More Support for Medical Marijuana from Connecticut Nurses and Texans | Newsbrief: Rep. Souder Busily Fighting the "Good" Fight | Newsbrief: University of Vermont to Pay $15,000 to Students Arrested for Marijuana Advocacy | Newsbrief: Federal Appeals Court Says Police Can Take Hair Samples Whenever They Feel Like It | Newsbrief: Philippine Drug Doc Calls for Marijuana Decriminalization | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | This Week in History | Apply Now to Intern At DRCNet! | Criminal Justice Policy Foundation Seeking Executive Secretary or Administrative Assistant | Seeking Information, Affiliations, Link Exchanges | The Reformer's Calendar

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