Pubdate: Thu, 23 Aug 2001
Source: Orlando Sentinel (FL)
Copyright: 2001 Orlando Sentinel
Author: Robert Perez, Sentinel Staff Writer


SANFORD -- A proposed state constitutional amendment that would give 
nonviolent drug users the option of treatment over jail is dangerous and 
misleading, local and state law-enforcement officials warned Wednesday.

Treatment already is an option in the state's 50 drug courts, said state 
drug czar Jim McDonough. The key difference would be that people who opt 
for treatment under the proposed amendment could not be prosecuted, whether 
they completed the drug treatment or not.

"This is an absolute hoax," McDonough said.

But a proponent of the amendment said McDonough and others are the ones who 
are misleading people.

"That's just spin to distract you from the law," said Sydney P. Smith, 
chairman of the Florida Campaign for New Drug Policies.

Smith said the amendment would not allow offenders to simply walk 
away.Anyone who does not complete the program or is deemed untreatable 
would be sent back into the justice system, he said.

But critics say the amendment also would let offenders off the hook after 
18 months, even if treatment is not completed.

Both sides agreed that drug offenders who receive treatment are much less 
likely to commit future crimes.

Proponents have collected about 50,000 signatures, and now the initiative 
must pass a legal review by the Florida Attorney General and state Supreme 
Court. If it passes the review, proponents must gather about 488,000 
signatures to get it on the November 2002 ballot.

The proposition is similar to one passed by California voters last year and 
is being supported by the same three wealthy businessmen who want to do 
away with drug laws, said U.S. Rep. Ric Keller, R-Orlando.

The state's sheriffs have passed a resolution opposing the measure, said 
Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger. Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary 
called the amendment "bunk."

"I would urge my supporters not to support this and better yet to tell 
these people to stay the hell out of Florida," Beary said.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager