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On Nov. 24, [Central District] Judge A. Howard Matz demonstrated justice and compassion in refusing to send Los Angeles medical marijuana defendant Scott Imler to jail for helping the sick. But most such acts of mercy could soon be illegal. U.S. Rep. Mark Souder (D-Ind.), chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees drug policy, is now seeking co-sponsors for the Drug Sentencing Reform Act. This bill would sharply limit the ability of judges like Matz to show mercy to defendants in drug cases, including medical marijuana cases. Indeed, the measure would treat medical marijuana providers like Imler as worse than child molesters under federal law. Amazingly, Souder’s bill would increase the punishment for those who provide high-quality medical marijuana to patients — who might be harmed by having to use low-potency marijuana that requires inhalation of much larger amounts of smoke to get the relief they need. Recently, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “In too many cases, mandatory minimum sentences are unwise and unjust.” This proposal from Souder — an influential member with much clout in Congress — will make the problem worse. Bruce Mirken Washington, D.C. Bruce Mirken is director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project.

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