Pass a Joint, Go to Prison

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For those hoping that Congress might wait and see if the Supreme Court's January ruling regarding federal sentencing guidelines actually unleashes the chaos predicted by critics of soft-on-crime judges, here is cause for concern: Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has rewritten his Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act (known by the catchy acronym DAMV:SADTCPA), which he introduced before the Supreme Court's decision in U.S. v. Booker. Apparently Sensenbrenner decided DAMV:SADTCPA wasn't draconian enough. The bill, which has been passed by a subcommittee and will soon be considered by the full House Judiciary Committee, retains the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for anyone over 21 who supplies any quantity of any drug to someone under 18, with a life sentence for a second such offense. In addition, according to an analysis by Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the bill would:

  • make the sentencing guidelines mandatory again, forbidding downward departures in almost all cases;
  • virtually eliminate the "safety valve" provision for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders;
  • create a three-year mandatory minimum for parents who see or hear about drug dealing targeting or near their children and fail to report it;
  • create a 10-year mandatory minimum for parents who sell drugs when their children are nearby; and
  • increase the mandatory minimum for selling drugs in "drug-free zones," which in practice cover almost anywhere within many cities, to five years.

In a press release that's not online yet, the Marijuana Policy Project cites another attention-grabbing provision of the bill: "Anyone convicted in federal court of the crime of 'enticing' someone 'who has previously been enrolled in a drug treatment program' to 'possess' marijuana will receive a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. 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."

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  1. Yet another stepping stone on the long, slow stroll to totalitarianism.

    Awwwwww, fuck! Why don’t these twats quit wasting time and just skip to the logical conclusion of the war on drugs: life in prison for anyone who so much as thinks about drugs.

  2. I for one welcome our zealot overlords.

  3. Isn’t Madison in Wisconsin? How the hell can somebody like Sensenbrenner exist in a state that contains Madison? Is the rest of the goddamn state like Topeka, KS or something?

  4. Lovely! It’s bad enough that the booze store cards *everyone* who buys alcohol (even if they’re obviously old enough) — now dealers are going to have to do the same?

  5. How the hell can somebody like Sensenbrenner exist in a state that contains Madison?

    In many areas of Wisconsin, Madison is looked down upon as a bunch of hippies and rowdy college kids. Senselessnbrenner represents the really uptight north shore suburbs of Milwaukee. Or at least he did before the last round of gerrymandering. Maybe it’s changed now.

  6. Life?!?! LIFE! What the fuck!

  7. I apologize for my ineloquence. I just couldn’t think of anything else to say.

  8. I’m seriously wondering how long it will be before ALL employers are required by law to drug-test ALL employees, the same way employers are now required to check Social Security numbers.

  9. This shit makes me sick to my stomach. How the fuck can these people sleep at night? Are they human?

    Oh, yeah. I forgot. “Drugs are bad. Think of the children.”

    If they really cared about the children they would adopt policies that wouldn’t ruin countless innocent lives.

  10. “I’m seriously wondering how long it will be before ALL employers are required by law to drug-test ALL employees, the same way employers are now required to check Social Security numbers.”

    Do you think that would go over relatively well, Jennifer? I’d like to think that it wouldn’t, but then I see shit like this bill.

  11. I wonder if they’re actually crazy enough to think that these measures will really work.

  12. Jennifer-

    Mandatory testing for all employers would seriously hurt small businesses.

    I therefore predict that it will come about fairly soon. With exemptions for management, of course.

  13. Oh they’ll work alright. They’ll work to get Nonsensenbrenner re-elected. They will achieve their (non-ostensible) purpose.

  14. Andy-
    There are, of course, plenty of reasonable arguments to make as to why the government would NEVER require something so asinine. But then, if we went back in time a few decades you could use those same arguments to prove that the government would NEVER do anything as stupid as declare a “War on Drugs.”

  15. It’s like the ’70s all over again.

    Don’t mess with Marijuana!
    Possession: 20 years
    Sale: Life!

  16. so, y’all are seriously pissed off about the rights of 25 year olds that provide drugs to minors? seriously?

  17. the crime of ‘enticing’ someone

    Hmmm, I wonder if the DEA is subject to this rule with their magazine .

    If I was under the impression that all drug dealers looked like those girls, I could be ‘enticed’ to snort a line of poop just to see where it came from.

  18. ABC-
    You think a seventeen-year-old or a former drug-rehab inmate smoking a joint is such a catastrophe that a life sentence is an acceptable response? Seriously?

  19. Jennifer, thoreau, et.al.

    .. the day is coming, probably within the next few years, when anyone who applies for a drivers license will be required to take a mandantory drug test .. I’m just amazed that one of these loonies hasn’t thought of it yet ..

    .. for the children, of course ..

  20. Also, not that I’m a defender of prohibition, but to argue that it “doesn’t work” is really just a display of wanton ignorance or self-deception. Obviously, it “works” in the sense that making the price of drugs more dear will reduce consumption. It’s basic economics.

    If you don’t believe me, ask yourself – what are the drugs which are most commonly used and which have the worst impacts on society? Why, suprise, suprise – it’s the legal drugs. Not because they are inherently more destructive or attractive, but because it is cheaper, easier, and more legal to obtain them.

  21. Jennifer – no, I don’t think it’s an appropriate sentence. I also don’t think it’s the end of the world y’all are making it out to be…

    You guys are such a bunch of pessimists.

  22. Isn’t Madison in Wisconsin?

    Wasn’t Joe McCarthy from WI?

    Oh wait, I probably violated some kind of Godwin’s law equivalent here. Sorry 🙂

  23. No, abc, it’s not the end of the world, merely someone’s life, for all intents and purposes. No big deal at all.

  24. Obviously, it “works” in the sense that making the price of drugs more dear will reduce consumption. It’s basic economics.

    You’re obviously showing your ignorance of basic economics.

  25. You guys are such a bunch of pessimists.

    Yea, right.

    “As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air – however slight – lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.
    – William O. Douglas, judge (1898-1980)”

    Someone light a match.

  26. Get behind me, abc troll.

    “I wonder if they’re actually crazy enough to think that these measures will really work.”

    T-
    C’mon. Do you actually believe they’re thinking that far ahead? Consequences, schmonsequences.. they’re doing something NOW!

    I’m reading more and more comments here rumbling about bloody revolution. If these fascist fuckheads push any further then I may join them.

  27. abc, why don’t you show us all evidence of the drug war working, instead of pulling shit out of your ass.

  28. “Jennifer – no, I don’t think it’s an appropriate sentence. I also don’t think it’s the end of the world y’all are making it out to be…”

    To paraphrase MLK Jr, the tolerance of injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

  29. abc, you’re part of the problem.

  30. abc,
    We?re not pessimists, we?re realists. Under these laws, when I visited home from college my junior year and my brother and I hung out and smoked (which he did without me, but just enjoying a mutual interest), if I passed the pipe I would be in bad shape. Worse shape than if I did something benign like jumping out of the bushes and sexually assaulting a jogger.

  31. Pessimist? HAHA – no, try habitual law-breaker. For the fun of it. Or just the bragging rights of having broken every drug law in existence at least once. Or maybe both. Hell – somebody pass me the bowl.

  32. All other things being equal, prohibition most certainly will drive down drug use relative to what it would be in the absence of prohibition. Simple supply and demand.

    The problem is that we can’t really make a comparison here under the assumption “All other things being equal…” Driving drugs into the black market has also affected the manner in which drugs are produced and marketed. Instead of getting cocaine as a mild stimulant in Coca Cola, the black market is more likely to sell it in the purest, most addictive form so that they can maximize the cash they get before getting caught (and maximize the cash on hand to buy their way out once they’re caught).

    And when drug use is driven underground, the most reckless and excessive uses will predominate rather than “social use” in which people ingest mild doses (like with alcohol, where most drinkers avoid getting completely trashed).

    So, while it’s likely that the number of consumers may increase with legalization, the number of abusers will more likely decrease. And even if the number of abusers increases, given how inelastic the demand is, driving down the price will probably drive down the total amount of money spent on drugs.

    It’s simple, really: When demand is inelastic (as it is when drugs are consumed in addictive quantities) driving up the price drives down the quantity demanded somewhat, but not enough to reduce the total amount spent. So prohibition is actually increasing the amount of money spent on drugs.

    I want nothing more than to help the addicts by shutting down the black market. Get this problem out into the open, get the addicts far away from the gangsters, and end the violence.

  33. Oh, I don’t doubt this bill will pass 350-60 in the House and 80-15 in the Senate. We on this board are such a tiny minority that all our protestations might as well be mouse farts. Man, I hate it when gaius marius is right.

  34. abc – why do you want to piss away your tax money paying for potheads to live in prison for life, where many newsreports state they can easily get drugs?

    I’d rather a drug user spent their money on munchies after getting high than spend my money on their food!

  35. “Man, I hate it when gaius marius is right.”

    Where the hell has he been, anyway? Anyone else notice his absence?

  36. Right on, Thoreau. Excellent points.

  37. “so, y’all are seriously pissed off about the rights of 25 year olds that provide drugs to minors? seriously?”

    You make it seem like this is about just some 25 year old unwashed homeless guy hanging around the elementary school playground saying “c’mere little boy, want some crack.” That’s not the only kind of case this legislation would address, and probably not even the majority. I imagine most cases would be more like mine:

    When I was 17 and a senior in highschool, my peer group ranged from 17 to 22–Other seniors, friends from highschool who had graduated the previous year, and their friends who had graduated before that. This being the case, even in retrospect I can’t bring myself to find this age distribution to be all that creepy, although at 30 I maintain some cognitive dissonance about the idea of a 22 year old man hanging out with a 17 year old girl.

    Anyway, I was 17 the first time I smoked pot, and hardly particularly more “impressionable” than the 22 year old who provided it. 13 years later he is a college graduate and a productive, tax-paying member of society.

    Under this legislation, my friend spends a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison. Meanwhile, my mother, who was certainly pissed when she found out I had a joint, spends 3 years in prison because she just grounded me instead of calling the cops on my friend.

    Who is better off because of this? My mom spends 3 years in jail? My friend spends 10 years in jail instead of finishing college and starting a career? Me? I have a job I love that pays well and a wonderful husband. Good luck convincing me that I was harmed by a little pot smoking as a teenager. My husband smoked pot with his sister when he was 16 and she was 21. You bet I’m concerned with the rights of people who provide drugs to minors.

  38. tsiroth,

    I’m glad your life, and the lives of the people you have described, have worked out well. My concern is that people like Senslessbrenner would look at the people you’ve described as, in the words of Eric Cartman, “a bunch of Goddamned hippies,” who should be spending time in prison, away from the rest of “us proper, law-abiding folks.” I also fear that people like Senslessbrenner represent the majority in this country, and that they are just too dangerous.

    Your points are valid, and I completely agree with you. I also fear for the rights of people who just happen to piss off the wrong bureaucrat or cop.

    Perhaps if enough legislators and cops were framed and had to defend themselves against serious prison time, things would change. But in the meantime, this witchhunt is going to destroy plenty of lives. This sucks.

  39. create a three-year mandatory minimum for parents who see or hear about drug dealing targeting or near their children and fail to report it

    Okay, so I take my four-year-old to the park, let him run on the playground while I read the paper. I look up, and see a local gang member sell pot to someone while leaning on the poles holding up swings my son is swinging on.

    My choices are now:
    1) Do not report this to the cops, and risk a mandatory 3 year minimum sentence in Federal prision, or;
    2) Report this to the cops, and risk a gang member blowing me full of holes.

    I suppose we should be lucky that they only limit this delima to people who are responsible for the care of children…

  40. You hit it, decnavda. The absolute worst part of this already unbelievably draconian bill is the part that makes it a crime not to rat somebody out!
    If this passes, I swear to Christ that I’m leaving what has become this cesspool of a country.

  41. One of the first things you learn in a logic class is that you can’t prove a negative, and yet this bill, if passed, would require people to do just that in order to keep their freedom–how, for instance, could Decnavda keep his/her freedom by “proving” that he did NOT see the drug dealer leaning against the swings?

    For a party that claims to honor “family values” the Republicans sure seem to be doing their best to destroy American families.

  42. The drug warriors are running scared. In response to the increasing availability of medical pot, and the resulting “demarginalization” of the drug, the Antis are resorting to the increasingly hysterical. Witness John Walter’s recent comments–more fear-mongering and paranoiac than usual, even for him. This senseless piece of garbage bill is clearly a similar response.

  43. I see a serious legal problem coming from this bill. No, not the usual ones already commented on. Think what will now happen if you are an alleged co-conspirator. You will be asked to testify against your alleged co-conspirator, and if you don’t you’ll be charged with the crime of “not reporting” in addition to the base crime. A terribly coercive tool in the hands of an unscrupulous prosecutor. It will also hugely increase conviction rates. I’d bet many juries won’t convict on the base charge but will convict on the “didn’t report” charge, reasoning that even if there isn’t enough evidence supporting the base charge, the defendant is probably guilty of something (where there’s smoke…) and a 3-year term is a suitable compromise.

  44. It’s almost as if these freaks are trying to radicalize me. First, they let me do my own taxes the other night (which ended up being 13 pages long), now this! I think I hate Al Qaeda most because they missed the Capitol building!

  45. Yeah, pass a joint to a guy who just got out of a forced rehab program- not because he felt that his life was not being lived to the fullest, but because some half-wit drug-warrior made him piss in a cup awhile back so he could continue to drive to his job.

    What a morally reprehensable thing to do!

    What horrors that some folk (like most folk, up until the good ole “Ladies Christian Temperence Union”) give their older kids hot toddies, wine or beer at dinner, or smoke a doobie with them! Aieeeeee!

    I simply loathe neo-victorians.

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