Indiana Daily Student

LETTER: Drop mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana violations

Much noise is being made in recent times about the legalization of marijuana. Recent studies clearly identify its many medical uses as well as the limited harm it does to the body, yet it remains illegal. Many younger adults see this as an injustice and a restriction on ?their liberty.

Yet while this debate about legalization loudly continues, the much quieter and more severe injustice of minimum sentencing is being upheld by the United States Criminal ?Justice System.

Minimum sentencing laws were enacted by the federal as well as many state legislatures in the 1970s and 1980s as part of Richard Nixon’s “War on Drugs.” Minimum sentencing laws are those that place a restriction on a judge in his assignment of prison sentence length to a ?certain convicted party. One example provided by Families Against Mandatory Minimums is the U.S. Congress federal minimum sentence that if you are charged with possessing 1 kilogram of heroin, 5 kilograms of cocaine or 10 grams of LSD, you may be sentenced to no fewer than 10 years in prison.

In most cases, a judge considers many facts in determining a sentence such as level of ?cooperation and prior record.

But in the case of convictions that have minimum sentences, the ability of a judge to sign an appropriate sentence is impaired ?by a minimum.

These mandatory minimums were intended to punish those high up in the drug game harshly to dissuade the drug market, but in reality it assigns overly harsh penalties to ?low-level drug sales. A report by FAMM describes a Michigan minimum sentence ?infamously called the “650-lifer law.”

This law gave a minimum of life in prison without parole for people who were charged with more than 650 grams of heroine or cocaine. Michigan has since repealed that ridiculous law but still retains minimums of 10 and 20 years for low-level drug sales. Federal minimums also remain in place for almost every drug, including prescription drugs ?and marijuana.

The effects of minimum sentencing are being felt by society in many ways. Overpopulated prisons are being crammed with even more convicts as a result of petty drug offenders being stashed in correction facilities for ?multiple years.

Drug abusers fail to address their problem for fear of being unfairly judged by a court of law. Families are being deprived of fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters due to extended stays in prison for nominal amounts of drugs.

The solution is simple: drop minimum sentences and allow a judge to determine the sentence of an offender on a case-by-case basis.

The money that is saved on prison costs can be put toward drug abuse education and treatment. We young people have gotten a bit ahead of ourselves. Before we start arguing the blunt in our hand should be legal, we might want to ensure that it doesn’t land us life in prison.

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