That's the message of this opinion editorial by FAMM President Julie Stewart over at The Crime Report, applauding Senator Rand Paul for showing the "courage of his convictions" in opposing new mandatory minimum sentences for synthetic drugs.
Paul has come under fire recently for insisting that the full Senate debate and consider amendments to three new crime bills. The bills add certain chemicals, which are being used by some to make synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs, to Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
Paul believes most drug offenses should be handled by state and local governments, a view held by those concerned about overcriminalization, as well as by conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who recently testified before Congress that the federal courts were being clogged by routine drug cases.
Closer to my heart, the Senator also expressed concern with harsh mandatory minimum sentencing laws that apply to most federal drug offenses.
“We are concerned about people being put in jail for 20 years for marijuana,” Paul told the New York Daily News.
He is right to be concerned. Under federal law, any person found guilty of distributing any chemical or drug on Schedule 1 of the CSA is subject to a mandatory 20-year prison term “if death or serious bodily injury results.”
The law does not require any criminal intent to kill or harm another person.
Consider the following easy-to-believe scenario: a college kid gives his dorm mate a package of synthetic marijuana he bought at the store. The package says the contents are incense and “Not for Human Consumption” (as most packages bought at stores are labeled).
He echoes the package warning to his friend, "By all means do not smoke or ingest this. It will screw you up."
The friend ignores him, smokes the imitation drug, and dies later that day after crashing his car. If it can be proved that his recklessness was caused at all by the synthetic marijuana, the friend who gave him the package would face a minimum of 20 years in federal prison, despite his lack of intent to cause any harm.
It seems like common sense that this stupid law should be repealed—not extended to more drugs.Indeed, passing mandatory minimums probably feels good at the time for lawmakers -- a quick fix that also makes a nice soundbite. But it comes back to haunt us, widening our federal budget's girth and the scope of federal law. People don't think about the unintended consequences of the draconian penalties until it's too late. That's got to stop.
Yet, Paul’s request that this absurd, strict-liability punishment be revisited before the new bills are enacted, has made him the object of vicious, often personal attacks.
With tax day right around the corner, many are feeling the long reach of Uncle Sam's already long arm. How many more of our tax dollars should go to stuffing federal prisons with people who could be handled better -- or more cheaply -- by the states? How much more should we pay to lock people up for predetermined prison terms, instead of letting judges decide how much time is needed and deserved?