Newsbrief: Man Bites Dog! Arkansas Bill to Lower Meth Sentences Moves Forward 2/4/05

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Across the land, lawmakers are scurrying to pass laws to fight the "scourge" of methamphetamine, whether by restricting the availability of legal over-the-counter medicines, creating new offenses, or enacting harsher penalties for existing meth offenses. In Arkansas, this week, legislators headed in a different direction. A bill that would get some speed cooks out of prison faster passed the General Assembly's Senate Judiciary committee Tuesday.

Under current Arkansas law, people convicted of one of a specified list of especially heinous offenses -- murder, rape, kidnapping, "causing a catastrophe," meth manufacture, and possession of
paraphernalia with the intent to manufacture meth -- are not eligible for parole until serving 70% of their prison sentences. In reaction to the appearance of methamphetamine labs in the state, legislators added manufacture of methamphetamine with intent to distribute to that list. But SB 120, the bill that made it through committee this week, would remove the 70% requirement for first- or second-offense meth lab cooks if they were found in possession of less than five grams of the stimulant.

Bill sponsor Senator Jack Critcher (D-Grubbs) told the Associated Press he introduced the bill because he did not want to add to the state's prison overcrowding problem and because he wanted to separate the addicts from the dealers. People possessing less than five grams of meth should be presumed to be in possession of the drug for personal use, he said.

Click here to read the bill online.

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Issue #373 -- 2/4/05

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