Current Drug Laws Need Revision
Earlier this month, the Pennsylvania Sentencing Commission released a report on school zone mandatory sentences. These laws state that if you are caught selling drugs within 1000 feet of a school, prosecutors can seek a two-year mandatory minimum sentence. Not too surprisingly, its recommendation was to repeal law for two main reasons: first, 1000 feet is a lot of area – three football fields worth of distance in every direction of University Park; second, there is little relevance between how it’s being enforced and its original intention: to stop people from selling drugs to minors.
The law didn’t even deter crimes. Take, for example, the most recent case, in which one Penn State student sold his friend $35 worth of marijuana and received a two-year jail sentence. Had he been outside a school zone, the crime would call for probation to thirty days in county jail. Or, to put it another way, to receive the same sentence outside a school zone, he would have needed ten pounds of weed. College students across the country experiment with drugs, usually in small amounts and usually with nothing too hard. So what’s the harm?
Now, I’m not saying just because other campuses get away with it we should too. I’m saying it’s stupid to enforce such a harsh law that was meant for serious drug dealers. Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, who is running for Centre County DA, said the law had “a well intentioned purpose” but went far beyond that. “I prefer sentencing to be based upon actual facts of the case, not some geographical measurement of proximity of the incident to the border of property owned by Penn State University, which is often how we see it used,” she added.
Other problems with the law include its uneven application across the state, the lack of distinction between drugs, and the ambiguity of where a school zone lies. That leads to a bunch of issues. In effect, a wheelbarrow full of crystal meth is no worse than a few ounces of weed. Also, if you’re on the 8th floor of an apartment building, is that still within 1000 feet? Plus, there are no lines marking the zone, no way of knowing if you’re in or out.
I think it’s dumb. What do you think?
[Photo courtesy of eideard.wordpress.com]