With teenagers’ drug use a key campaign issue, some lawmakers pushed Thursday for quick passage of legislation to crack down on methamphetamine, the fastest growing drug problem in much of the Far West and Southwest.
Lawmakers of both parties agree that action is needed to fight the drug, but there is disagreement over how stiff the criminal penalties for selling it should be.
The Justice Department and many lawmakers believe the penalties should be the same as for crack cocaine: a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for five grams or more and a 10-year sentence for 50 grams or more.
But some Democrats, including Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, don’t want mandatory minimum sentences in the legislation. In a compromise with Kennedy, the Senate methamphetamine bill now awaiting final action was changed to provide that federal sentencing guidelines be used instead.
But the House version, authored by Rep. Fred Heineman, R-N.C., a former police chief, contains the mandatory minimums.