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Tougher Penalties for Smaller Amounts of Methamphetamine

February 23, 1998
By: Mindy Korando
MDN Columbia Bureau

A bill calling for longer jail time for smaller quantities of methamphetamine is working its way through the legislature. State Senator Harry Wiggins from Kansas City, and Senate President Pro Tem Bill McKenna sponsored this bill.

Trafficking more than 150 grams of methamphetamine is a class B felony. The bill would change this 150 grams to 30 grams that could mean more people sent to jail.

Tom Carver is the Chairman of a committee on legislation for the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Carver feels that raising penalties will not solve the problem.

"If these offenders posses more than 30 grams of methamphetamine they will go to prison, and if it is over 60 grams they are going to prison for more than ten years. That is if the judge does not parole them."

Carver says people who favor this bill might say this won't happen, but he disagrees, "It would not be unusual for a jury to recommend life in prison for a first time offender, someone with no record could go to jail for ten years."

Ron Leone (LEE-own)is the general counsel for State Senator Bill McKenna of Barnhart. He says, "Missouri is the number two leading methamphetamine producer in the United States, and that is not something to be proud of. But putting these drug offenders in jail is not the only thing we want to do. We want to rehabilitate drug users and make them model citizens."

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)in St. Louis reported that last year 435 labs were seized.

David Baker is the chief trial assistant at the Jackson County prosecutor's office in Kansas City.

He says, "Methamphetamine manufacturers are such a severe risk to the community as far as health and human safety goes, that we are trying to increase the ranges and severity of the punishment for these folks."

Drug offenders that do not possess large quantities of methamphetamine have a different punishment. Jackson County is one of the few counties that has a unique program for small drug offenders, called Drug Court. In Drug Court the average user does a 12 to 18 month in-patient and out-patient program.

This is where drug offenders will go through the criminal justice system but it is designed for one thing, to get them off of drugs. If they successfully complete the program then the courts dismiss the case that is pending against them.

A vote on the bill is expected this month.