Criminal Justice

Congress Is Creating an Over-Criminalization Task Force. Will it Tackle the Drug War?

Don't hold your breath.


The Heritage Foundation

Earlier this week the House of Representatives announced the creation of the Over-Criminalization Task Force of 2013. Between now and Nov. 30, 2013, five Democrats and five Republicans will "conduct hearings and investigations relating to over-criminalization issues" and release reports.

With over 4,500 federal crimes in the U.S. code, which ones can we expect the task force to tackle? 

Matt Sledge of the Huffington Post reports that task force member Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) hopes to "examine the drug laws in this country." Fellow task force members Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Jerry Nadler (D-NY.), both co-sponsors of marijuana reform bills, will likely want to do the same. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) will definitely have something to say about mandatory minimums, seeing as he and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) co-sponsored the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013 (a version of which Sen. Rand Paul introduced in the Senate). Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), meanwhile, supports the Ending Federal Prohibition of Marijuana Act and the Federal Prison Bureau Nonviolent Offender Relief Act.

In other words, the task force Democrats are united in wanting federal drug law reform. 

But what about the Republican members? In the late 90s, task force chair Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) opposed federal funding of clean needle exchanges and allowing D.C. to implement a medical marijuana program. In 2005, he introduced the borderline-insane Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act: 

The bill creates harsh new penalties for a variety of nonviolent drug offenses, including a mandatory minimum five years for anyone who passes a joint to someone who has ever been in drug treatment, five years for someone who has been in treatment who asks a friend to find them drugs, and ten years for mothers who have been in treatment who commit certain drug offenses at home—even if their kids aren't there.

Another task force member, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), supports the ONDCP's (ineffective) anti-marijuana advertising campaign and is a staunch opponent of online gambling. (Fun fact: In 2010, he accused Bill Maher of treason.) Neither Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) nor Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) is on the record supporting or opposing any drug-related bills. While that's also true for Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.), the former prosecutor's campaign website features a revealing boast: "When he left office the average sentence in drug trafficking cases in eastern North Carolina was almost twice the national average." Seeing as the bulk of federal drug offenders are doing time for trafficking, I don't imagine Holding will be all that interested in reducing penalties for them.

And let's not forget that Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) will be an ex officio member of the task force and a gatekeeper of sorts for the task force's recommendations. He's on record as "oppos[ing] any effort to legalize marijuana." Goodlatte's big concern, which he shares with the other Republican members of the task force, is the increasing number of Americans "who have found themselves breaking the law with no intent of doing so."

Rep. John Conyers, who, as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, is also an ex officio member of the task force, wants the group to address the fact that "the incarceration rate for African Americans is six times that of the national incarceration average." 

Hopefully, the task force will find a way to address cases like this one and cases like this one

Consolation prize: None of these people are on the task force

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  1. I hope Mr. Conyers sees the direct correlation between the current WoSD and the incarceration rate of minorities. That, however, might take a miracle.

  2. O/T but related

    Mom rats out teenage son to cops…..ine-market

    1. What a fucking cunt. Holy shit. You wanted to “save his life” so you entered him into the legal system?!?

      That poor kid.

      1. But, but, but, the police are our friends. We live in a democratic society, and the government is “We the People”…..

        and other such nonsense



        1. Hamilton was right. This will never get old.

          1. 86.45!!! Is that the highest yet?

    2. Kill this bitch.

    3. Please don’t let me read the comments, please don’t let me read the comments… Dammit. Read the comments. If that stupid bitch had sat down and ate that with him they might have had a real conversation for once. Instead. She ruined his life. Cheers mom. You frightened, stupid cow.

    4. Dr Phil would be most proud of her.

  3. Tuesday night at a get-together, a woman was asking me why things are the way they are. She was truly puzzled.

    I asked her ” Who applies for the job of guarding the hen house?”

    She was puzzled and had no answer. At that point I was convinced that we are truly fucked.

    1. We need an edit function dammit.

    2. That’s an easy one. The fox, of course.

  4. Bachus is my rep. He’s an idiot. Expect nothing good to come out of him.

    1. You would think a guy with a name like that would be a little less uptight.

  5. sensenbrenner!!!

    Carpooled with his kids to school when I was kid. I suffer the stain of ignominy that he authored the patriot act.

  6. federal funding of clean needle exchanges

    I’ll have to add this to the “things cosmotarians like” list.

    Does Riggsy think anyone here supports this shit?

    1. That was my first reaction. I missed the part of the constitution empowering the Federal government to use my tax money to buy needles for junkies.

      1. It was a footnote

      2. Eh, I can’t get much outrage over something like this when the only reason you would need to promote clean needle exchanges is because of the government-funded drug war in the first place. The least thing it can do(seriously this is the least thing the government could positively do on the matter (*cough*legalizeit*cough*)) is try to mitigate some of the damage it does.

    2. You know, you and American could blow each other at the same time instead of having to take turns if you were a little more flexible.

      1. Shhh, SIV is getting his cosmo hate on.

    3. It’s iffy, since we are talking about contagious disease, and ones that spread through more than just consensual and reckless behavior, thus being something of a legitimate public health issue. If nothing else, it seems low down the priority list of battles to fight.

      1. Works are cheap. Nobody wants to share them because dull needles suck and cause ugly, infection-prone trauma. The only reason to provide a needle exchange is because the state government made them illegal w/o a prescription.Why tax people at the federal level to give junkies what they can’t legally buy, when the obvious “public health” solution(for the feds) is to withhold highway funds from states that require prescriptions for hypodermics?

  7. Look you guys, the more “citizens” we put in jail, the easier it is to rape them. Raping is so much easier when you don’t have to chase them around and stuff.

    The only downside is that when their in prison, they don’t pay taxes. Shit! I can rape them at will but they have no money to tax. Damn, it sure is a dilema.

    1. Tax their chain gang pay?

  8. I see this as a very smart move by the Dems. They can see Rand Paul leading the way on civil liberties, with modest support from his fellow donkeys. By getting Democrats on the panel who actually want to maybe sorta do something about the drug war, and then paring them up with reactionary republicans, it will help reinforce the preconception that Dems are better on civil liberties issues than Republicans. Whoever assigned those particular Republicans to the committee really fucked up.

    1. Unless it was Democrats.

  9. Other than treason, shouldn’t the feds be cock blocked from creating crimes?

  10. “Where did you learn to be a statist fuck?!?!”
    “I learned it by watching you!”

  11. OK wow, so who comes up with all that crazy stuff?

  12. With over 4,500 federal crimes in the U.S. code, which ones can we expect the task force to tackle?

    Here’s an idea. Limit the federal government to a dozen felonies.

  13. 4,500 federal crimes? How about going back to the original 3 — piracy, counterfeiting and treason? Those 3 alone should lead to indictments against most of Obama’s top appointees.

    1. You’re not thinking of the children.

      1. We don’t need to arrest the children, they’re already in prison.

  14. Sounds liek a solid plan to me dude.

  15. Do not forget that Goodlatte was also the turd who authored UIGEA and shut down internet poker.

  16. Raul Labrador is in the House Liberty Caucus, headed by Amash. I guess I’m saying there’s a chance.

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