D.C. City Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8) has introduced legislation that would enable District drug offenders who are addicted to cocaine or PCP to qualify for an addicts' exemption in the city's mandatory sentencing law.
Rolark, chairman of the council's Judiciary Committee, said she had no plans to push the legislation anytime soon, but some other council members expressed support for the idea.
The mandatory sentencing act, designed to set minimum sentences for certain offenses, allows defendants who sell drugs to support narcotics addictions to be sent to drug treatment programs rather than to prison.
The definition of narcotics for purposes of the law includes heroin and Dilaudid, for example, but does not include other drugs that some experts view as just as addictive.
In a detailed examination of the mandatory sentencing law, The Washington Post found a number of judges and lawyers who feel that the exclusion of drugs such as cocaine is a flaw in the statute because it creates an artificial distinction between different kinds of drugs considered either physically or psychologically addictive and prevents people with severe drug problems from getting treatment.
Rolark's bill would add three categories of substances to the definition of "narcotic drug" under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1981, to which the mandatory sentencing law refers: cocaine, its salts, optical isomers and salts of its isomers; phencyclidine (PCP), and phenmetrazine and its salts.
"I'm not going to push it. Maybe when we get back in September" from a summer recess scheduled to start in July, Rolark said. That would put enactment over to next year at the earliest, because District legislation must go through a congressional review period that could not be completed by the end of the year.
Rolark said she has other priorities before her committee and that "I don't see any point in discussing it."
Council member John Ray (D-At Large), sponsor of the mandatory sentencing law, endorsed the change and suggested that other members "ought to tell [Rolark] to push it."
The U.S. attorney had no comment on Rolark's proposal yesterday, according to a spokesman.