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House Approves Bill to Expand Drug Sentences

A bill (H.R. 5312) to expand penalties for individuals convicted on federal felony drug charges in cases involving children received voice vote approval in the House on October 17. Sponsored by Rep. Bill McCollum (R-FL), the measure would increase mandatory minimum sentences for those who use minors in the distribution of illicit substances, those who distribute drugs to minors, and those who sell drugs in a protected “Drug-Free School Zone” or a specified zone near a college, playground, public housing facility, youth center, public swimming pool, or video arcade. For first-time offenders, the sentences would increase from one year to three years; for second-time offenders, the sentences would increase from one year to five years.

Rep. Charles Canady (R-FL) said, “This bill sends an important and unmistakable message, do not involve our kids in your drug trade. By passing and enacting this legislation, we are doing more to make sure our children realize the promising future to which they are entitled.”

The only concerns about the bill were expressed by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA). “Scientific studies have found no empirical evidence linking mandatory minimum sentences to reductions in crime. Instead, what the studies have shown is that mandatory minimum sentences distort the sentencing process, discriminate against minorities in their application and waste money,” he said.

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