DRCNet Activist Guide 5/94

Crime Bill Update

The following Crime Bill update was written by Rob Kampia of NORML (National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws). NORML can be reached at:

Probably a week to contact the Senate/House conference committee.


(For a copy of a more complete overview of the crime bill, please call the NORML office.)

In November, the U.S. Senate passed a crime bill that contains hundreds of widely criticized, "tough on crime" provisions. This bill was sent to the U.S. House of Representatives as H.R. 3355. Earlier, U.S. Representative Craig Washington (D - Texas) had introduced H.R. 3315, an alternative crime bill that would have abolished all mandatory minimum sentences and reformed the civil asset forfeiture laws, among other things. NORML members supported Mr. Washington's bill.

Neither of these bills passed the House. Instead, the House passed H.R. 4092, another unfocused bill that isn't as bad as the Senate's version. Among other things, this bill:

  1. Allows the death penalty for drug "kingpins" even when death does not result from the crime. Individuals who are convicted in federal court of a continuing criminal enterprise involving 60,000 kilograms of marijuana or 60,000 plants (or seedlings) are eligible for the death penalty. Hence, someone who is accused by a government informant of growing 60,000 plants in a conspiracy over > any number of years can get the electric chair.
  2. Provides more than $10 billion to help states build and operate new prisons. These cells cannot be reserved for violent offenders. As penalties increase for marijuana-related crimes, new prisons will provide the space needed to house even more marijuana consumers.
  3. Includes a "three strikes and you're out" provision which allows a "serious" drug offense to count as a first, second, and/or third strike. Those who are convicted on three separate instances of committing "serious" crimes -- such as rape, murder, robberies involving violence, and certain drug-related felonies -- will receive mandatory life prison sentences if the third conviction is on the federal level. Possession or trafficking of 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of marijuana, or even growing 1,000 plants or seedlings regardless of their weight or gender, counts as a "serious" drug crime.

NORML members and other activists across the country who acted on the regular announcements from the national office of NORML apparently had an impact: On April 19, during a diatribe on the House floor in support of his "three strikes and you're out" amendment, Rep. Gerald Solomon (R - New York) charged, "The ACLU and the National Organization for Legalizing Marijuana [sic] are telling people, and I think I just heard it on the floor here, that this amendment would apply to the possession of small amounts of marijuana."

Your messages are getting through. Keep up the good work!

So What is Happening Now?

Because the Senate and House have passed different crime bills, leaders from the Senate and House must get together in what is called a "conference committee" to reconcile the differences between the bills. These leaders, who are called "conferees," are currently meeting informally to discuss these matters. By the time the conference committee meets publicly, the conferees will have already decided what the final bill will look like. Hence, the time to act is now.

The informal discussions will continue for at least two weeks, but it is important to act as soon as possible while the conferees' opinions are still being molded. However, it is possible that the bill will not leave conference committee for many months because of the controversy over banning assault weapons. The bill to do so, which passed the House on May 5 by a two-vote margin, might be included as part of the crime bill package.

When a crime bill is finally approved by the conference committee, it must pass both the House and the Senate, and then President Clinton must sign it into law.

Although we cannot be sure of who the Senate conferees will be, we can take a good guess:


                                                Tel # (202)     Fax # (202)
1. Sen. Joseph Biden     (D - Delaware)         224-5042        224-0139 

2. Sen. Patrick Leahy    (D - Vermont)          224-4242        224-3595 

3. Sen. Howard Metzenbaum(D - Ohio)             224-2315        224-6519 

4. Sen. Ted Kennedy      (D - Massachusetts)    224-4543        224-2417

5. Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D - Arizona)          224-4521        224-2302
6. Sen. Orrin Hatch      (R - Utah)             224-5251        224-6331 

7. Sen. Strom Thurmond   (R - S. Carolina)      224-5972        224-1300 

8. Sen. Alan Simpson     (R - Wyoming)          224-3424        224-1315 

9. Sen. Charles Grassley (R - Iowa)             224-3744        224-6020


                                                        Tel # (202)     Fax # (202)
1. Rep. Jack Brooks     (D - Texas)                     225-6565        225-1584 

2. Rep. Don Edwards     (D - California)                225-3072        225-6193 

3. Rep. John Conyers    (D - Michigan)                  225-5126        225-0072 

4. Rep. Bill Hughes     (D - New Jersey)                225-6572        225-8530 

5. Rep. Mike Synar      (D - Oklahoma)                  225-2701        225-2796 

6. Rep. Charles Schumer (D - New York)                  225-6616        225-4183

7. Rep. Hamilton Fish, Jr.      (R - New York)          225-5441        225-0962 

8. Rep. Henry Hyde              (R - Illinois)          225-4561        226-1240 

9. Rep. Carlos Moorhead         (R - California)        225-4176        226-1279 

10 Rep. Bill McCollum           (R - Florida)           225-2176        225-0999 

11 Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner  (R - Wisconsin)         225-5101        225-3190
Address for any U.S. Representative:            Address for any U.S. Senator: 

The Honorable Henry Hyde:                       The Honorable Joseph Biden 

House of Representatives                        United States Senate 

Washington, D.C. 20515                          Washington, D.C. 20510 

What Can be Done?

1. Before May 25, please call, mail, or fax all 20 members of Congress listed above, as well as your own Senators and Representatives. (If you live in the state of one of the Senators or the district ofone of the Representatives, put extra effort into influencing his opinion. He wants your vote!) Stress the following points:

2. Get all of your friends to do the same!

3. Write letters to the editor making the same points.

End of NORML writeup +++

The group Families Against Mandatory Minimums (F.A.M.M.) has asked their members to make all the same requests, and in addition, that they ask the conferees to oppose amendments which would A) remove weight-training equipment from prisons; and B) eliminate Pell grants for inmates.

DRCNet suggests that you also put in a pitch for H.R. 3100, Don Edwards' bill to form a federal drug policy commission, as called for in the "Hoover" Resolution (see Federal Reform, for more information on H.R. 3100). Tell the conferees that whether or not they can work it into the Crime Bill, you support H.R. 3100 and you want to see that commission get to work.

Next: Sign the"Hoover Resolution"
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DRCNet Activist Guide 5/94

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