Beyond the borders of Massachusetts, a number of states have already repealed mandatory minimums drug sentences for non-violent offenses. (See the CJPC website for a 2004 report on other states.) One neighboring state is on the cusp of doing so. Earlier this year, New York saw both chambers of its legislature concurring in repeal, and the Governor is already on record as supporting repeal. The bill is in conference committee with some minor changes to be ironed out. To see the New York Times article on repeal of the Rockerfeller mandatory drug sentence laws click here.
At the Federal level, three legislators from CA, VA, and IL have introduced legislation which would either eliminate or reduce such sentences. In an email from Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) the three bills were outlined as follows:
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D- CA) introduced HR.1466, the "Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009." The bill would get rid of all mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, discourage federal prosecutions of low-level drug offenders, and allow courts to place drug offenders on probation or suspend their sentence". For the text of this bill click here.
Congressman Robert "Bobby" C. Scott (D.-VA) has introduced H.R.1459, the "Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009". This bill would eliminate the distinction between powder cocaine and crack cocaine; eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences for cocaine, and establish the possibility of probationary sentences for cocaine offenders. (Rep. Scott is the chair of the House Judiciary subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security through which all of these bills would initially pass.) For the text of this bill click here.
Congressman Danny Davis (D.-IL) introduced H.R.1475, the "Federal Prison Work Incentive Act of 2009", legislation that would substantially revive the good time system that existed before November 1, 1987, when the Sentencing Reform Act was passed. The bill would increase good time and provide additional opportunities to reduce a sentence by engaging in work opportunities. For the text of this bill click here.
FAMM has published a new report Correction Course: Lessons from the 1970 Repeal of Mandatory Minimums which reviews the fate of the first mandatory minimum laws passed in 1951, which were then for the most part repealed in 1970. For the text of this report click here.
Finally, in the March 14th Salon online magazine, Glenn Greenwald has written about the experience of Portugal which decriminalized drugs over five years ago. The article is entitled The Success of Drug Decriminalization in Portugal and takes a brief look at the lack of success of the global war on drugs. For the text of this article click here.