(Note: During the several days between publication of this newsletter in print and its distribution on the net, Congress passed H.R. 2259 and sent it on to the White House for an expected signature. The disturbances that took place in several federal prisons were in response to this.)
Earlier this year, the US Sentencing Commission voted to reduce penalties for crack cocaine offenses to the same level as powder cocaine. Currently, one gram of crack is equivalent to 100 grams of powder, for sentencing purposes. The commission also voted to restrict the definition of money laundering so that small time sellers are not lumped in with large-scale traffickers. The commission's vote becomes law, unless Congress acts to block it by November 1. The Senate has already passed S. 1254, disapproving of the amendments, and the House Judiciary Committee has sent H.R. 2259 on to the full house. The House will probably act before November 1, so it's urgent that DRCNet members and other reformers write, fax or call their Representatives and urge them to vote against H.R. 2259. You can find out your rep's phone # (or name) from the Congressional Switchboard, (202) 224-3121.
Dear Rep. _____:
I am writing to urge you to vote against H.R. 2259, a bill which would undo the Sentencing Commission's sensible reduction of crack cocaine sentences to the same level as powder cocaine. A report just released by The Sentencing Project revealed the shocking fact that 1 out of 3 black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are incarcerated, on probation or parole, ON ANY GIVEN DAY. The War on Drugs is the driving force behind this travesty, and discriminatory sentencing practices like the crack/powder disparity) are a large part of the problem.
With such a national emergency on our hands, now is the time to thoughtfully refocus our criminal justice priorities. The Sentencing Commission, after years of study, has taken this sensible step. Please allow it to become law; please vote no on H.R. 2259.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) is planning to file federal legislation to allow medical patients to receive marijuana on prescription, and is currently looking for other members of Congress to co-sponsor his bill. Please write your Representatives to request that they co-sponsor Rep. Frank's medical marijuana bill.
Dear Rep. _____:
I have heard that your colleague, Representative Barney Frank, is planning to introduce legislation to permit doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients with a legitimate medical need for it. I am writing to ask you to cosponsor this legislation. The federal government has no business interfering with the doctor-patient relationship in this way. 36 states have passed legislation recognizing marijuana's legitimacy as a medicine. In 1988, DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young, after reviewing the issue in detail ruled that marijuana should be rescheduled, stating that "the evidence ...clearly shows that marijuana has been accepted as capable of relieving the distress of great numbers of very ill people, and doing so with safety under medical supervision." Unfortunately, then DEA Chief Administrator Robert Bonner overruled Young's decision, with somewhat less thought.
Even arch-conservative Pat Buchanan has stated publicly that only the doctor and patient should be involved in the decision whether or not to prescribe marijuana for a medical condition (in Charlotte, NC, 7/29, and Des Moines, IA, 10/2). And even House Speaker Newt Gingrich has sponsored medical marijuana legislation, in 1982. Please support this compassionate, common-sense, medical reform.
From The Activist Guide, Issue #7, October '95, DRCNet Publications section, A Guided Tour of the War on Drugs home page.
The next article is: Minimize the Harm.