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Governor Proposes Stiffer Penalties for Drug Dealers

Times Staff Writer

Worried that tough laws in other states are encouraging drug dealers to move their operations to California, Gov. George Deukmejian called Saturday for even stronger penalties here to combat drugs.

In a preview of his upcoming State of the State Address, Deukmejian proposed sharply increasing prison sentences for large-scale drug pushers and the death penalty for drug dealers who commit murder.

“I want California to be first in the nation in many fields, but I don’t want our state to be the No. 1 center of illegal drug trafficking,” the governor said in his weekly radio broadcast. “We must act quickly to make our anti-drug laws the toughest in the nation.”

In his speech, Deukmejian gave only a brief outline of his proposal. Donna Lucas, a spokeswoman for the governor, said the plan would be fleshed out when legislation is drafted and introduced in the Legislature.

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In particular, the governor called for imposing a minimum penalty of 25 years without possibility of parole on “large-scale importers of heroin and cocaine.”

Currently, selling a large amount of cocaine or heroin in California could result in a penalty as short as three years in prison, Deukmejian said. In Florida, such a crime would be punished by a minimum of 15 years in prison, he said.

Under Deukmejian’s proposal, a 25-year prison sentence would be imposed on convicted drug dealers who seek to sell more than 400 grams of cocaine in California, Lucas said.

In addition, the governor said he would seek to authorize the death penalty “for certain murders committed by large-scale drug pushers.” A long-time advocate of capital punishment, Deukmejian did not elaborate on what circumstances would warrant the death penalty in drug cases.

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Lucas said the governor’s death penalty legislation would duplicate a federal law enacted last year. Adopting a similar state law, she said, would make it easier for prosecutors to win death sentences in California drug-related murder cases.


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