A House anti-drug initiative is moving toward a zero tolerance policy, as lawmakers tack on amendments that stiffen penalties for recreational drug use.
The House sent its latest message to drug users Wednesday, passing an amendment that would subject anyone possessing "personal use" amounts of illegal drugs to civil penalties of $10,000 per violation.The vote was 293-115, with 128 Democrats and 165 Republicans supporting the proposal. There were 112 Democrats and three Republicans in opposition.
As House members began wading through changes to the drug bill last week, they signaled that any drug use was intolerable. In the first test of this policy, lawmakers voted 335-67 for an amendment that would deny many federal benefits to those convicted of two drug offenses, including possession.
Still to come is a proposal that would deny states a portion of their federal highway money if they fail to take away driver's licenses of those convicted of one drug offense. The initial conviction would bring a six-month suspension, while repeat convictions within a five-year period could bring revocation for a year.
"The theme of this year's drug bill is user accountability," Rep. Hamilton Fish, R-N.Y., said in support of the civil fines amendment sponsored by Rep. Mickey Edwards, R-Okla.
The overall anti-drug legislation would add some $2 billion to the $3.9 billion federal effort to combat illegal drugs. It includes money and programs for law enforcement, education, treatment, rehabilitation and virtually every avenue to try to stem the supply of drugs and demand for them.
The House likely will complete the legislation next week. The Senate has yet to begin consideration of its own major anti-drug bill.
The civil fines envisioned in the Edwards amendment would not replace current criminal penalties for possessing marijuana, cocaine or other drugs.