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New bill in Congress would increase penalties

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TO: Marijuana policy reform advocates

FROM: Steve Fox, MPP director of government relations

DATE: Thursday, November 20, 2003

SUBJECT: Take action -- New bill in Congress would increase penalties
for marijuana-related offenses and increase harms to
marijuana users


Can you imagine a bill that intentionally forces marijuana users to
inhale a greater amount of tar and carbon monoxide? What about a bill
that dramatically increases penalties on medical marijuana providers
who develop high-quality strains of marijuana for seriously ill

The Drug Sentencing Reform Act, scheduled to be introduced by
U.S. Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) within the next few days, would
accomplish these "goals." Please call your U.S. representative today
and urge him or her not to cosponsor this bill. See below for details
about how to do this.

While the most prominent objective of this bill is to ensure that
individuals convicted of drug-related offenses in federal court
receive the longest possible prison sentences, the bill would also --
for the first time in history -- increase penalties for marijuana
producers based on THC levels. For example, under the provisions of
this bill, a medical marijuana provider in California convicted in
federal court for possession of just 33 plants with a THC content of
between 13 and 25 percent would be sentenced "to a term of
imprisonment which may not be less than 5 years." Previously, a 5-year
mandatory minimum applied to the possession of more than 100 plants.

By dramatically increasing penalties on the distribution of marijuana
with higher THC content, this bill would ensure that lower-quality
marijuana is sold to children (and adults, of course). This will not
decrease the number of Americans smoking marijuana; it will simply
increase the amount of tar and carbon monoxide inhaled by Americans
while they are smoking.

Members of Congress must understand that their constituents support
harm reduction policies, not harm exacerbation policies.

Please call your U.S. representative toll-free by using the Capitol
Switchboard at 800-839-5276. This switchboard operates 24 hours a day.
So if you are inspired to call after normal business hours, the
operator will transfer you to your U.S. representative's office and
you can leave a voice mail message. Of course, calling during business
hours is preferable.

Here is a sample script for you to use when you call:

"Hello, my name is ______________ and I live in ______________.
I am calling to urge Representative __________________ not to
cosponsor the Drug Sentencing Reform Act being introduced by
Representative Souder [rhymes with powder]. This bill would
dramatically increase penalties on individuals growing medical
marijuana in accordance with state law. It would also ensure that
smoking marijuana is even more harmful to children than it is
under current law. This is not a bill that Representative ________
should support."

If you are not certain who your U.S. representative is, go to
http://www.house.gov/writerep , enter your state and zip code (your
five-digit zip should work), and click the "Contact My Representative"
button. The name of your U.S. representative should appear on the next

As noted above, this bill is also designed to limit the ability of
federal judges to reduce prison sentences for defendants convicted of
drug-related offenses. For example, under the provisions of this bill,
a judge would be prohibited from reducing a defendant's sentence based
on family or community ties -- factors that could still be considered
in non-drug-related cases.

The Marijuana Policy Project will be working with many other
individuals and organizations to fight this bill. It will not be
passed without a major fight. Thank you for doing your part to stop