May 19, 2005

Senate Minority Leader Pro Tempore John McKinney (R-Fairfield) today voted to uphold the state’s stringent penalties against crack cocaine dealers by opposing a Democrat bill that would allow criminals to possess 56 times the amount of crack cocaine before being subject to mandatory minimum sentences. The bill, which passed the Democrat controlled State Senate despite Senator McKinney’s objections, increases the amount of crack cocaine a criminal can have in their possession without being subject to these mandatory minimum dealing/distributing sentences from half a gram to an ounce (28 grams).

“This legislation is an unfortunate shift in our state’s drug policy that only serves to give leniency to the worst of the worst – those drug dealers who are out there preying on kids in our urban neighborhoods,” said Senator McKinney. “If the point is to address the disparity between penalties for crack and cocaine, then we should work to do so in a way that maintains a strong policy against illegal drugs, not by drastically increasing the amount of drugs a crack dealer can carry without facing a mandatory sentence.”

Senator McKinney voted for an amendment that would have equalized the penalties for crack and powder cocaine by establishing a mandatory minimum sentence threshold at half an ounce for both substances. The amendment was voted down by the Democrat majority.

“This amendment would have been the best possible way of bringing parity to our drug laws without making it easier for drug dealers to get out of going to jail,” added Senator McKinney.

Senator McKinney pointed out that current law already protects those addicted to crack arrested for possession of more than an ounce of the drug from the mandatory minimums. Persons currently arrested for possession can avoid the mandatory minimums by proving to the court that they are addicted to the drug, and not simply dealing or distributing it.

“We should be doing all we can to increase treatment for those who are addicted and to extend compassion to those who want to get better, but when it comes to punishing drug dealers we need to maintain a strong policy,” said Senator McKinney. “An ounce of crack cocaine is a tremendous amount of the drug, and the only people who carry that much crack are either dealers or addicts. We already have provisions protecting the addict, but drug dealers are bad people and we need to punish them appropriately.”