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House Insanity - HR 1528: 5 Years For
Passing A Joint!
Left | April 19 2005
James Sensenbrenner has launched his next assault on freedom. The full House
Judiciary Committee is set to vote as early as next week on H.R. 1528, which
creates a new group of mandatory miniumum penalties for non-violent drug
offenses, including a five year penalty for passing a joint to someone who's
been in drug treatment.
That's right: Passing a joint to someone who used to be in drug treatment
will land you in federal prison for a minimum of five years.
The "Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment
and Child Protection Act of 2005" (H.R. 1528) was introduced by House
Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) on April 6, and
it has already passed out of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime,
Terrorism, and Homeland Security.
We warned you about this bill last September. It's now coming home to roost.
Please visit here to e-mail your U.S. representative and two U.S. senators
today. Stop this bill in its tracks.
Marijuana Policy Project reports:
In addition to the shocking joint-passing provision described above,the
bill would also create a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for a first-time
conviction of distributing a small amount of marijuana to a person under
18 years of age ... and a 10-year sentence for a second offense of distributing
marijuana to a person under 21. By comparison, the average time served by
convicted rapists in this country is about seven years.
MPP does not condone the distribution of marijuana to minors, nor do we
advocate the use of marijuana by people recovering from substance
abuse problems. But we do believe that judges should have discretion to
determine whether or not offenders in these circumstances deserve to be
imprisoned for sentences as long as five or 10 years. If these mandatory
minimum sentences are enacted, judges'hands will be tied.
This bill has traction because it also contains a section that serves as
the House Republican leadership's response to a recent U.S. Supreme Court
ruling that made the Federal Sentencing Guidelines advisory, rather than
mandatory.* The Republican leadership is highly motivated to pass this bill
-- and with it, the harsh new penalties related to marijuana.
The bill will now be debated and voted on by the full House Judiciary
Committee and -- if the committee passes the bill -- the full House
will then vote on it.
Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) also has an action alert on this
bill. Here are the gory details, courtesy of FAMM:
* Makes the federal sentencing guidelines a system of mandatory minimum
sentences through a "Booker-fix" provision.
* Creates new mandatory minimums that further erode judicial discretion.
* Eliminates the safety valve for low-level drug offenders.
* Makes virtually every drug crime committed in urban areas subject to "drug
free zone" penalties that carries a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.
* Punishes defendants for the "relevant conduct" of co-conspirators
that occurred BEFORE the defendant joined the conspiracy.
As written, H.R. 1528 would:
* Effectively make the federal sentencing guidelines a system of mandatory
minimum sentences through a "Booker-fix" provision. This provision
forbids judges from departing below the guideline sentence in all but a
* Make the sale of any quantity of any controlled substance (including anything
greater than five grams of marijuana) by a person older than 21 to a person
younger than 18 subject to a ten-year federal mandatory minimum sentence.
* Create a new three-year mandatory minimum for parents who witness or learn
about drug trafficking activities, targeting or even near their children,
if they do not report it to law enforcement authorities within 24 hours
and do not provide full assistance investigating, apprehending, and prosecuting
* Create a new 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for any parent committing
a drug trafficking crime in or near the presence of their minor child.
* Mandate life in prison for persons 21 years or older convicted a second
time of distributing drugs to a person under 18 or convicted a first time
after a felony drug conviction has become final.
* Increase to five years the federal mandatory minimum sentence for the
sale of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school, college, public
library, drug treatment facility (or any place where drug treatment, including
classes, are held), or private or public daycare facilities - in short,
almost anywhere in cities across the U.S.
* Eliminate the federal "safety valve," granting it only when
the government certifies that the defendant pled guilty to the most serious
readily provable offense (the one that carries the longest sentence), and
has "done everything possible to assist substantially in the investigation
and prosecution of another person," and would prohibit the federal
"safety-valve" in cases where drugs were distributed or possessed
near a person under 18, where the defendant delayed his or her efforts to
provide substantial assistance to the government, or provided false, misleading
or incomplete information.
This is absolutely sickening. As we said last week,
Sensenbrenner is a one-man disaster for justice. He's been the driving force
behind the Real ID Act and bills to strip judges of their discretion in
sentencing and subpoena judges' records. In 2004, he wanted to add mandatory
minimum penalties to non-violent drug offenses (one example: a five year
mandatory minimum sentence for passing a joint to someone who had been in
a treatment center.)
Don't let him get away with it.