In the name of saving children from candy-flavored methamphetamine, the U.S. appears on the verge of mandating more than a year in jail for anyone who cooks up a batch of pot brownies.
A bill by California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein that has recently reached the Senate floor has cannabis advocacy groups concerned that potent, medical-grade edible products would become a higher crime carrying weighter sentences, ostensibly to protect children from ingesting strawberry-flavored meth.
The bill is the Saving Kids from Dangerous Drugs Act, which, according to Feinstein, "sends a strong and clear message to drug dealers Ã¢â‚¬â€œ if you target our children by peddling candy-flavored drugs, there will be a heavy price to pay."
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) co-sponsors the bill. The full text is available online [PDF link].
"Flavored meth Ã¢â‚¬â€œ with child-friendly names like Strawberry Quick Ã¢â‚¬â€œ is designed to get people to try it a few times," Feinstein declared in a media advisory. "ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all about hooking young people, and we have to stop this practice before it grows any further. So, this legislation will increase the criminal penalties for anyone who markets candy-flavored drugs to our youth Ã¢â‚¬â€œ by imposing on them the same enhanced penalties applied to dealers who distribute drugs to minors."
"New techniques and gimmicks to lure our kids into addiction are around every corner. Candy flavored meth is the latest craze used by drug dealers," Senator Grassley added. "Research has shown time and again that if you can keep a child drug-free until they turn 20, chances are very slim that they will ever try or become addicted. This makes it all the more important that we put an end to the practice of purposely altering illegal drugs to make them more appealing to young people."
Cannabis advocacy blog "Toke of the Town" retorted: "Since there is no national trend toward lacing candy and other edibles with meth or any other drug besides cannabis, this bill clearly targets legitimate medical marijuana dispensaries, caregivers and patients in states that have legalized it as medicine."
And what sort of "enhanced penalty are we talking about? "[A] term of imprisonment [...] shall be not less than one year," the legislation states.
In the same breath, however, the bill adds: "This subparagraph shall not apply to any offense involving [five] grams or less of marihuana."
Should Feinstein's bill become law, the stipulation of five grams or less would absolutely lead prosecutions to level claims as to how much plant matter was used in the preparation of various drug-laced concoctions, which could be a highly subjective science.
Interestingly, the legislation gives no preferred mode of calculating the correlation of the plant matter's weight and the actual, tangible drug effect and content of the finished product, seemingly leaving a drastic space for ambiguity andÃ‚Â interpretation.
However, she also opposes Proposition 19, California's marijuana legalization initiative, alleging that it would tie the hands of law enforcement, preventing officers from making stops and arrests of drivers stoned on marijuana. Feinstein even signed a ballot argument with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, citing specifically stoned school bus drivers as the principle threat to post-legalized society.
"Let's assess her argument point by point," began L.A. Times writer Paul Armentano. "First, Proposition 19 explicitly states that it will not amend or undermine existing state law criminalizing motorists who operate a vehicle while impaired by pot. Driving under the influence of marijuana is already illegal in California, and violators are vigorously prosecuted. This fact will not change under the initiative.
"Second, Proposition 19 in no way undermines federal drug-free workplace rules, just as the state's 14-year experience with legalized medical marijuana has not done so. Further, it does not limit the ability of employers to sanction or fire employees who show up to work under the influence of pot. Just as a private or public employer today may dismiss workers for being impaired by legal alcohol, employers in the future will continue to be able to fire employees who arrive to work under the influence of marijuana."
"Some medical marijuana users are so sick that they are unable to smoke their medicine and must eat it in baked goods or lozenges," pleaded activist group Students for Sensible Drug Policy. "They are already breaking federal law and risking prosecution but if S. 258 passes, the penalties they face would double.
"Please write your two United States Senators today and urge them to defeat this heartless bill."
The act was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in mid-June and is awaiting a vote by the Senate at-large.