While the Senate was debating equal pay for women on Tuesday, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) took to the floor to criticize President Barack Obama for allowing states to weaken the punishments for using marijuana and other drugs.

"Now let's turn to what the Obama administration thinks," he said. "Typical of its pattern of disregarding the law across a large range of areas, this administration refuses to charge some defendants for crimes they duly committed if doing so would subject them to mandatory minimum sentences. Typical with this administration's pattern of disregarding the law, it is not taking action in most situations where States have enacted laws decriminalizing marijuana, even though that is contrary to Federal law."

"Do you think the Obama administration would stand silently by if a State enacted laws that allowed guns, rather than drugs, to be sold inconsistently with Federal law? Well, of course not."

Grassley was speaking in opposition to legislation introduced by Sens. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) called the Smarter Sentencing Act. The bill, approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in January, would allow federal judges to sentence certain non-violent drug offenders below the existing mandatory minimum sentences.

But Grassley said allowing drug users and dealers to avoid prison time would harm public health and safety.

"According to a story this week in the Washington Post, one of the reasons for the heroin epidemic is that marijuana decriminalization is leading growers to produce more heroin for importation into this country," Grassley remarked. "That is because the availability of marijuana is rising and consequently the price is falling. So there is money available to be spent elsewhere. So many who used to grow marijuana now can make much more money cultivating opium poppies for heroin export to this country.

"But the administration supports this bill, which allows judges to lower mandatory minimum sentences for heroin importation. Doesn't that boggle the mind?"

"My conservative colleagues who rightly oppose the administration's lawlessness in so many areas should think twice before supporting the administration here," Grassley added. "They should oppose a bill that gives judges additional authority only for lowering sentences for dealing, manufacturing, and importing LSD, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamine."

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[Image via Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons licensed]