Bill Introduced to End Mandatory Minimums in All Drug Cases

Via FAMM, Rep. Maxine Waters has introduced a bill to end mandatory minimum sentencing in all drug cases. The bill has 15 co-sponsors.

H.R. 1466, the Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009, seeks to repeal mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders and to give courts the ability to determine sentences based on all the facts, not just drug weight. It would also refocus federal resources on major drug traffickers instead of low-level offenders. There is currently no companion bill in the Senate.

The full text of the bill is here. We need a Senator to step up to the plate. Ideas? [More...]

In addition to ending mandatory minimums, the statute is great on sending small drug cases to state court, where they belong. It provides:


A Federal prosecution for an offense under the Controlled Substances Act, the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act, or for any conspiracy to commit such an offense, where the offense involves the illegal distribution or possession of a controlled substance in an amount less than that amount specified as a minimum for an offense under section 401(b)(1)(A) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(A)) or, in the case of any substance containing cocaine or cocaine base, in an amount less than 500 grams, shall not be commenced without the prior written approval of the Attorney General.

Some stats from the findings section:

(1) Since the enactment of mandatory minimum sentencing for drug users, the Federal Bureau of Prisons budget increased from $220 million in 1986 to $5.4 billion in 2008.

....(9) Low-level and mid-level drug offenders can be adequately prosecuted by the States and punished or supervised in treatment as appropriate.

....(14) One consequence of the improper focus of Federal cocaine prosecutions has been that the overwhelming majority of low-level offenders subject to the heightened crack cocaine penalties are black and according to the Report to Congress only 8.8 percent of Federal crack cocaine convictions were imposed on whites, while 81.8 percent and 8.4 percent were imposed on blacks and Hispanics, respectively

....(16) African Americans comprise 12 percent of the US population and 14 percent of drug users, but 30 percent of all Federal drug convictions.

....(18) According to the Justice Department, the time spent in prison does not affect recidivism rates.

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  • Display: Sort:
    the financial situation (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Capt Howdy on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 05:32:51 PM EST
    is going to be what brings all this to a head.
    they will, eventually - if they have not already, realize how much money could be made by taxing and regulating the stuff.  at least in the case of pot.
    just MO.
    in any case, this is good news.

    This is the first step in a long process. (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by JSN on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 07:29:05 PM EST
    I will ask my congressman to become a cosponsor.

    Ted Kennedy (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by CDN Ctzn on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 11:23:18 PM EST
    He's really got nothing to loose.
    Unfortunately, his days are numbered and this would cement his place in the realm of a rational thinking society (if one exists here)!

    fyi, (none / 0) (#1)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 05:29:20 PM EST
    I just heard on NPR that Holder made a statement today about med MJ dispensaries. It sounded generally supportive of med MJ, but I only heard it in passing...

    he said (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 05:33:41 PM EST
    they don't intend to prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries unless they violate both federal and state law.

    I'll take it... (none / 0) (#4)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 05:37:05 PM EST
    certainly better than the other direction we're so used to...yet depressing that the proposal still refers to drug possession and even drug sale as an "offense".  

    We've got a chance, given our current financial situation, to push for legalize and tax were there a rep or senator bold enough.

    16) African Americans comprise 12 percent of the US population and 14 percent of drug users, but 30 percent of all Federal drug convictions.
    Most "Federal drug convictions" are not for using, they're for dealing, trafficking, etc.

    iow, "drug users" are apples, those who receive "Federal drug convictions" are oranges.

    Now, if you have data that says of the Federal drug convictions for using, only, significantly more than 14% are AA, then that could indicate a problem.

    There's more than one kind (none / 0) (#6)
    by jondee on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 05:51:44 PM EST
    of problem; limited economic options and negative cultural conditioning being a couple of them.

    no Jean Valjean here (none / 0) (#15)
    by diogenes on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 09:03:24 PM EST
    As Chris Rock, I think, said, only in America are the poor people fat.  People don't start dealing drugs because they're starving.    

    Actually. . . (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by LarryInNYC on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 09:09:46 PM EST
    People don't start dealing drugs because they're starving.

    I've heard a number of minimum sentence horror stories in which the people convicted were very low-level people who were acting as mules or holding a small quantity of drugs for someone because it was the only way they could buy food or make the rent.

    These sentences most often hit low level people.  The real honchos never even actually touch the drugs.


    Wyden could be a Senate sponsor (none / 0) (#7)
    by MKS on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 05:57:35 PM EST
    Oregon is very libertarian on issues like drugs....

    No Republican co=sponsers (none / 0) (#8)
    by AlkalineDave on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 06:27:42 PM EST
    unfortunate.  Hopefully some of the more libertarian leaning Republicans will hop on board.

    wow! (none / 0) (#9)
    by JamesTX on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 06:29:59 PM EST
    What an honorable and courageous move. I absolutely must have Maxine's baby! This is a small but symbolic step -- an ever so slight sign of the return of sanity. Too bad the people who made this mess that Representative Waters is slating for cleanup will retire in bliss and never answer for what they have done...their pompous hateful asses taking up space in the medical system. I certainly hope they don't get any pain meds. I sincerely hope they all rot in hell for two eternities (minimum -- with no pain meds). If there is a god, they will.

    Life for growing weed (none / 0) (#10)
    by Ben Masel on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 07:04:46 PM EST
    No parole.


    "Senior U.S. District Court Judge William C. O'Kelley imposed the mandatory minimum sentence."

    Great idea (none / 0) (#11)
    by KoolJeffrey on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 07:18:29 PM EST
    Mandatory minimum sentencing is lazy at best and unconstitutional at worst. Sadly, I don't see a single US senator signing up to support this.

    At the Howard U debate in June '07 (none / 0) (#14)
    by Ben Masel on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 08:03:53 PM EST
    all the Senator/Candidates called for either ending, or abolishing mandatory minimums.

    Feingold approached them shortly thereafter about co-sponsoring actual legislation, but apparently wasn't able to bring them around.


    Maybe some Congressmen... (none / 0) (#20)
    by KoolJeffrey on Sat Mar 21, 2009 at 07:54:07 PM EST
    ...but I can't see any Senators signing on.

    Joe Lieberman (none / 0) (#12)
    by NealB on Wed Mar 18, 2009 at 07:28:26 PM EST
    should be forced to step up for this one. He sold his soul to be an Independent. He probably would agree with the principles. And for a Republican co-sponsor, it would be good to have a woman. Kay Bailey Hutchinson? It would cinch her bid for Governor of Texas.

    The DrugWar's a 'rich man's hobby' (none / 0) (#19)
    by SeeEmDee on Thu Mar 19, 2009 at 07:06:50 AM EST
    It's dependent upon having the kind of 'expendable income' necessary to fund something that is hardly a national necessity, like defense or social welfare programs. And in these tight times, a perfect opportunity has been created to have the kind of national public debate as to whether we want to continue funding it, given that it has not succeeded in any of its' publicly stated goals.

    Note: I said publicly. One could argue that, since the DrugWar has been  allowed to continue, despite very public failures, there must be a hidden motivation for its' continuance.

    Given the disproportionate effects it has upon upon minorities, namely, politically disenfranchising and socially ostracizing them via the drug laws, such suspicions are warranted.

    After all, which political party, which traditionally suffers a dearth of minority membership amongst their rolls, would benefit directly from such disenfranchisement? Particularly when minorities tend to vote along the lines of their political opponents?

    Any wonder why Repugs are biggest drum-beaters for ever more punitive drug laws?