• Slightly Fairer Sentencing

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    by Ron Paul: On
    the Bloated IntelligenceBureaucracy

    Statement
    by Congressman Ron Paul before the United States House of Representatives
    on the Fair Sentencing Act.

    Extension statement
    for the Congressional Record:

    Madam Speaker,
    I rise in reluctant support for S. 1789, the Fair Sentencing Act.
    My support is reluctant because S. 1789 is an uncomfortable mix
    of some provisions that reduce the harms of the federal war on drugs
    and other provisions that increase the harms of that disastrous
    and unconstitutional war. I am supporting this legislation because
    I am optimistic the legislation’s overall effect will be positive.

    Congress should
    be looking critically at how we can extricate America from the four
    decades of destruction that has ensued since President Richard Nixon
    announced the federal war on drugs in 1972. As a medical doctor
    with over 30 years’ experience, I certainly recognize the dangers
    that can arise from drug abuse. However, experience shows that the
    federal drug war creates many additional dangers, while failing
    to reduce the problems associated with drug abuse. Like 14 years
    of federal alcohol prohibition in the 1920s and ’30s, America’s
    federal drug war has failed to ameliorate the problems associated
    with drug use, while fostering violence and disrespect for individual
    rights.

    While imperfect,
    I am optimistic that the Senate bill being considered today will
    reduce the harms of the federal drug war. I also hope consideration
    of this legislation will enliven interest in ending the federal
    war on drugs.

    It is unfortunate
    that the House of Representatives is today considering this compromise
    legislation from the Senate instead of Rep. Bobby Scott’s HR
    3245, the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act. I am an original cosponsor
    of Rep. Scott’s bill, which passed the House of Representatives
    Committee on the Judiciary on July 29, 2009 — one year ago
    tomorrow. Rep. Scott’s legislation is a short and simple bill
    that repeals a handful of clauses, sentences, and subparagraphs
    of federal drug laws to eliminate the 100 to one drug weight basis
    for sentencing disparity for crack cocaine violations in comparison
    to powder cocaine violations.

    I will vote
    for the Senate legislation today because it rolls back some of the
    enhanced mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine that the
    federal government created in 1986. These enhanced mandatory minimum
    sentences have caused people convicted for small amounts of crack
    cocaine to serve much longer sentences in prison than people convicted
    for the same amount of powder cocaine.

    While the Senate
    legislation reduces the drug weight basis for mandatory minimum
    sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine convictions
    for many individuals to only 18 to one compared to the total elimination
    of the disparity in Rep. Scott’s bill, the Senate bill does
    make a step in the right direction. The Senate bill eliminates entirely
    the mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine
    and reduces significantly the mandatory minimum sentence for many
    people convicted of crack offenses by raising the number of grams
    of crack cocaine a person must possess for each mandatory minimum
    sentence level to apply. In addition, the Senate bill allows courts
    to show compassion for individuals with compelling cases for leniency
    by reducing sentences for some people convicted of controlled substances
    violations who a court determines meet requirements including having
    minimum knowledge of the illegal enterprise, receiving no monetary
    compensation from the illegal transaction, and being motivated by
    threats, fear, or an intimate or family relationship.

    Unfortunately,
    while the Senate bill reduces some of the most extreme and unjust
    mandatory minimum sentences in the federal drug war, it also contains
    expansions of the federal drug war that I fear may yield results
    destructive to individual liberty and public safety. In particular,
    the Senate bill significantly increases maximum allowed monetary
    penalties for violations of federal restrictions on controlled substances
    and increases sentences for people convicted of controlled substances
    violations whose circumstances include certain aggravating factors.

    Some people
    will argue that the increased penalties in the Senate legislation
    are desirable because they target people who are high up in the
    illegal drug trade or who took particularly disturbing actions,
    such as involving a minor in drug trafficking. But, the history
    of the federal drug war has shown that ramping up penalties always
    results in increasing rather than decreasing the harms arising from
    the federal drug war. Such enhanced penalties increase the risks
    of the drug trade thus causing illegal drug operations to be more
    ruthless and violent in their tactics. Enhanced penalties also can
    result in even more inflated prices for illegal drugs, leading to
    more thefts by individuals seeking funds to support their drug use.
    High monetary fines for drug trafficking also tend to provide police
    and prosecutors with a perverse incentive to focus on nonviolent
    drug crimes instead of violent crimes.

    Each successive
    ramping up of the federal war on drugs has made it more evident
    that this war is incompatible with constitutional government, individual
    liberty, and prosperity. It is time for Congress to reverse course.
    I am optimistic that S. 1789 — even with its faults — may
    signal that Congress is ready to begin reversing course. It is imperative
    that the House of Representatives pursue a dialogue on how we can
    end the federal war on drugs — a war that has increasingly become
    a war on the American people and our Constitution.

    See
    the Ron Paul File

    July
    30, 2010

    Dr. Ron
    Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.

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