|Photo: Lash & Associates Publishing|
A Pennsylvania legislator intends to introduce a bill which would double penalties for first-time marijuana possession in the Keystone State.
Rep. Dick Hess, a Republican, wants to double penalties for first-time possession convictions for all Schedule I and Schedule II drugs, reports Derek Rosenzweig at Philly NORML. Marijuana is classed as a Schedule I drug, so the penalty for first-time pot possession would at one fell swoop go up from one year in jail and a $5,000 fine to two years and $10,000. For subsequent convictions it rises to three years and $25,000.
This backwards bill would also increase penalties for possession, distribution and manufacturing of “drug paraphernalia,” whatever the hell that is, to two years and $5,000 for the first offense. A second offense brings three years and $10,000 in fines.
|Photo: Philly NORML|
|Derek Rosenzweig, Philly NORML: “I hope they have a lot of room in jail while bankrupting ordinary nonviolent Pennsylvanians”|
”I hope they have a lot of room in jail while bankrupting ordinary nonviolent Pennsylvanians,” Rosenzweig said, “because you’d have to throw just about every store owner and employee in Pennsylvania in jail to enforce it. Almost anything can be used as paraphernalia, from a spoon to an apple to a fine collectible bong.”
“They don’t seem to be learning from history,” said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). “The majority of the nation doesn’t believe marijuana should [even]be Schedule I.”
“For Republicans who claim to want to reduce spending and government size, this is a terrible way to go about it,” Rosenzweig said. “For Democrats who believe that our criminal justice system is completely overburdened and needs an overhaul, this would simply exacerbate the situation.”
“It costs roughly $45,000 per year to house an inmate (and pay for his/her medical treatment), and in a time when we are hemorrhaging money both as a Commonwealth and a Nation, we have a huge debt to foreign nations that’s just waiting to get collected,” Rosenzweig said. “How these people believe we can afford burdening taxpayers even more, when we know from decades of experience that it will backfire, is incredibly troubling.”
“History has shown that longer drug sentences do not act as a deterrent for drug use,” said Edward Pane, president and CEO of alcohol and drug rehabilitation center Serento Gardens in Hazelton, Pa. “Pennsylvania prisons are already filled with drug users whose minor drug dealing was to support their own habit.”
“This legislation adds harsh penalties for possession; however, it does nothing to address the root of the problem,” Pane said. “It is estimated that it costs $100,000 to build a single prison cell, to say nothing of the additional cost of operating another prison.”
“Given the huge budgetary crisis in Pennsylvania, this legislation will add substantially to costs and ultimately do nothing to reduce drug use and drug related crime,” Pane said.
“I’d rename this bill the ‘Slap PA Taxpayers in the Face While Flushing Their Hard Earned Money Act’ if I were in charge, because that’s what this bill would do,” Rosenzweig said.
Uh-Oh… Dick Has Other Bright Ideas
|Photo: Dick Hess|
|Rep. Dick Hess wants to lock you up twice as long, even on first-time marijuana possession charges|
Another idiotic bill sponsored by — you guessed it — that same Dick, Rep. Dick Hess, proposes mobile “Drug-Free School Zones” around school buses.
Think about this one for a moment. The bill would increase the size of “Drug-Free School Zones” from 250 feet to 1,000 feet around school buses, playgrounds, and recreation centers.
“So if a school bus rolls by your house (or you live within 1,000 feet of a playground or rec center) while you happen to be selling a dime bag (enough for a joint or two) to a friend, you would be sentenced to two years minimum if convicted,” Rosenzweig said.
“The intent of this bill is laudable, and we are singularly impressed with Rep. Hess’ concern for the safety of children,” Rosenzweig said, “but you can’t protect children by banging your head against the wall even harder than you already do. All it does is give you a worse headache and law enforcement more leverage when coercing young people to rat on friends or to go undercover to expose a ‘drug ring,’ and we all know how well that turns out.”
Surprise, Surprise: The Cops Are Behind It
Both of Dick’s bills came after requests from law enforcement, according to Philly NORML.
But as we all know, one of the absolute worst ways you can go about trying to control a substance — and restrict access to it by kids — is prohibition.
“Surveys of high school students show that illegal drugs are far more accessible than legal ones,” said Franklin of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
“The only way to reduce availability [of drugs]to kids is to legalize them, regulate and control them as we do for alcohol and cigarettes,” Franklin said.