House Judiciary Commmittee Passes Bill to Equalize Cocaine Penalties

Last week, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee passed H.R. 3245, Rep. Bobby Scott's bill to equalize crack and powder cocaine penalties and eliminate the 5 year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack.

Today, the full House Judiciary Committee passed the bill, by a vote of 16 to 9. This is the good bill -- other versions would equalize the penalties but also add new crimes and throw more money into the War on Drugs.

The bill will now go to the full House for a vote. Let's hope it passes without Amendments (unless it's one that would make it retroactive.)

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    Very small beer. (2.00 / 0) (#1)
    by Jacob Freeze on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 11:45:30 PM EST
    Hope and change and our Messianic President have labored and brought forth... a mouse.

    Meanwhile the hodge-podge of state laws will continue to ruin lives in states like Idaho, where just being stoned can put you in jail for six months, and that's with no possession whatsoever except your buzz.   And for the second "offense" of being stoned, you get a year, and likewise with "paraphernalia" like a bong with no pot in it: one year in jail, and... it happens!

    In Alabama, for cultivating a couple of weeds in your basement with gro-lights... a mandatory minimum of 3 years.

    And so on.

    None of this has changed, none of it is about to change, and Obama treats it all like a joke, because he didn't get caught himself when he was just a coke and pot huffing preppie in Hawaii.

    apples and oranges (5.00 / 0) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Jul 29, 2009 at 11:49:37 PM EST
    we're talking about federal sentencing laws, not state. Obama and the Justice Department have no control over state penalties. For those of us working hard for reform for the last 20 years, this is a big deal.

    Hey (5.00 / 0) (#3)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 12:17:56 AM EST
    don't harsh Jacob's flow Jeralyn- it's always Obama's fault no matter what the issue.

    I didn't get (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by lentinel on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 06:02:46 AM EST
    from Jacob's comment that it was "Obama's fault".
    It's just that Obama laughed off the suggestion by the public that we should decriminalize marijuana.
    He did so in a manner that was hypocritical since he acknowledged smoking it and never denied enjoying it.

    But today he ridicules, in an offhand fashion, the rest of the American people who enjoy it and feel it is even safer than the beer he is about to enjoy with the cop and the professor.


    No control over state laws? (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jacob Freeze on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 05:15:14 AM EST
    Obama and the Justice Department have no control over state penalties.

    Golly, Jeralyn, since I just fell off a turnip truck from Mars, I guess I have to believe you.

    But what is this thing that I read about once upon a time called...

    Federal preemption?

    Is that like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny? Meaning stuff that only retarded pre-schoolers like me believe in, but cosmic adults like you know there's no such thing?

    So when Congress preempted a whole mountain of state laws with OSHA, and the Supreme Court confirmed that massive preemption in Gade v. National Solid Wastes Management Association, 505 U.S. 88 (1992), it was all just a big mistake?

    And therefore it would be impossible for a Democratic Congress to preempt virtually all state drug laws with comprehensive drug legislation in the same way that the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 preempted virtually all state laws about occupational safety and health?

    Why not?


    Yes, it is (none / 0) (#4)
    by JamesTX on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 01:04:24 AM EST
    next to nothing, but we have had nothing for so long it does seem like a big deal. And I may be wrong, but I think this would be the first time since the conservative revolution that we have seen a reduction in penalties of any sort? That, of course, doesn't count things like state laws making marijuana legal by prescription, but I still don't think there have been any reductions for just plain recreational use. It would be a symbolic start -- a demonstration of the public's  willingness to, once and for all, start to tell the hard liners to shut up, start repairing the damage they have done, and start the long journey toward rational policy. It doesn't count for squat in terms of distance in that direction, but it does symbolize a willingness to consider going the other way under some circumstances. And that is a big deal.

    The best way (none / 0) (#6)
    by lentinel on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 05:57:01 AM EST
    to "crack the disparity" would be to decriminalize cocaine. I should say, re-decriminalize cocaine.

    As with marijuana, the rationale for its' prohibition was based upon racism.

    From: Wikipedia:

    In 1914, Dr. Christopher Koch of Pennsylvania's State Pharmacy Board made the racial innuendo explicit, testifying that, "Most of the attacks upon the white women of the South are the direct result of a cocaine-crazed Negro brain."

    The legacy of this pattern of thought is with us still.

    Congress does have the spending power (none / 0) (#8)
    by Bemused on Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 07:23:03 AM EST
     it influence (coerce) states into enacting legislation favored by the Feds and has not always been shy about using it.

      Congress could enact legislation withholding federal law enforcement assistance funds to states which fail to enact favored provisions.

      Of course, historically the Feds have been more inclined to coerce states to enact harsher or more restrictive measures (e.g., lower speed limits, stricter drunk driving laws, sex offender registries, etc.) and I can't think of an example of congress using the spending power to cause states to reduce  harsh penalties or take other actions that aren't "tough on crime."

      The idea of Congress requiring states to establish drug courts and other alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders in order to receive certain federal funds is not far-fetched-- except in political terms-- and in this economic climate would likely be quite effective.