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Congressman Bobby Scott

Representing the 3rd District of Virginia

IN OPPOSITION TO H.R. 3537, THE DANGEROUS SYNTHETIC DRUG CONTROL ACT OF 2016

September 26, 2016
Floor Statements

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to H.R. 3537, the so-called Dangerous Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2016.

The legislation would add 22 synthetic drugs to Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. While some of these drugs may be indeed dangerous to the public, we know very little about many of them and adding them to Schedule I would seriously hinder research.

Furthermore, by adding these synthetic drugs to Schedule I, the legislation would significantly expand the mandatory minimum found in title 21, section 841(b)(1)(C) of the U.S. Code. If an individual is convicted of selling, distributing, or making one of these drugs, he would be subject to a 20 year mandatory minimum sentence if someone is seriously injured or dies from using these drugs.

And it doesn’t stop there. Adding these synthetic drugs to Schedule I would also subject this 20 year mandatory minimum to other individuals that may get wrapped up in a drug conspiracy, per title 21, section 846.  Technically, a girlfriend that takes a phone message or drives her drug dealer boyfriend to a drug deal for one of these synthetic drugs could be included in the boyfriend’s drug conspiracy and be subject to the same 20 year mandatory minimum if someone is seriously injured or dies from using the drugs involved in the conspiracy.

An individual who has intentionally sold, distributed, or manufactured these synthetic drugs, if they are indeed dangerous, should be held criminally responsible if someone is harmed or dies using them. However, I believe a judge, not Congress, should be the one determining the sentence based on the individual facts and circumstances.

For decades now, research and evidence has demonstrated that mandatory minimums are ineffective deterrents, waste the taxpayers' money, force judges to impose irrational sentences, and discriminate against minorities, particularly with regards to drug offenses. Unfortunately, there are already too many mandatory minimums in the federal code.

Mr. Speaker, many Americans wonder how low level drug offenders get decades long sentences. It’s because of bills like this that there are thousands of low level, non-violent, first time offenders serving decades behind bars. If we ever expect to do anything about that problem and actually address the drivers of mass incarceration generally, the first step we have to take is to stop passing new mandatory minimums or bills that expand existing mandatory minimums. The mandatory minimums in the code today did not get there all at once – they got there one at a time, each one part of a larger bill, which on balance might have been a good idea. Therefore, the only way to stop passing new mandatory minimums is to stop passing bills that contain mandatory minimums.

For these reasons, I urge my colleagues to vote No on H.R. 3537.

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