From relative obscurity a few months ago, crack cocaine has emerged as one of the country's No. 1 drug concerns. Yesterday, Sen. Lawton Chiles (D) of Florida introduced a package of three bills to Congress which would sharply toughen federal penalties against the sale and use of the drug. ``We face an emergency and need to take emergency steps,'' said Senator Chiles, citing the dramatic spread of the narcotic in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and other major cities.
The drug, which is produced by treating conventional powdered cocaine, is considered especially insidious by drug enforcement officials because of its unusually addictive nature and relatively low cost.
The three bills in the Chiles package would:
Amend the Controlled Substances Act to accommodate stiffer penalties against crack and rock (another form of the drug) users and dealers. Currently, the act classifies cocaine and other cocoa leaf derivatives in the second most dangerous category, because there are known medical uses for these drugs. Crack and rock have no known medical use. However, the bill would upgrade this drug's classification to the most dangerous category, thus increasing the penalty attached to its use or sale. Violations involving one gram or more of rock or crack would carry up to 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine on the first offense. For repeat offenders, the penalties could be doubled.
Make it a felony to employ a minor in an illegal drug enterprise. Currently, there is no law on the books specifically targeting the employment of minors as a felony offense.