- The Washington Times - Friday, September 7, 2001

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark L. Earley wants the penalty for dealing large quantities of "designer drugs" like Ecstasy in Virginia to be as high as penalty for narcotics dealers, and he would slap mandatory jail time on first-time dealers caught selling near schools.
He announced his anti-drug policy, so far the centerpiece of his public-safety plan, in front of Cafine's, a club in Richmond that shut down after the state revoked its license to sell alcohol because of complaints about drug use at the club.
Mr. Earley, who resigned as state attorney general in June to run for governor, faces Democratic businessman Mark R. Warner in the Nov. 6 election.
Two years ago, led by current Gov. James S. Gilmore III, a Republican, the state's penalties for drug dealers particularly drug kingpins were raised. But the kingpin laws, which target those who sell big amounts of a drug, didn't include reasonable thresholds for designer drugs like Ecstasy or OxyContin, a prescription painkiller, which have become wildly popular in the last few years.
Mr. Earley said if he's elected governor that will change, as will the current state law that requires mandatory jail time only after the second time someone is convicted of selling drugs near a school. Mr. Earley said he'll push for the one-year mandatory-minimum sentence at the first offense.
Mr. Earley also said he'll revive his plan to try to create civil liability for drug dealers, so families of users can try to recoup treatment costs from dealers, for example.
Republicans have had success with anti-drug messages before. Mr. Gilmore's Substance Abuse Reduction Effort (SABRE) helped Republicans win control of the legislature in 1999.
The prosecution side of SABRE has been more successful than the drug-investigation side. The legislature adjourned this year without agreeing to amendments to the state's budget, leaving the state police enforcement arm of SABRE funded far less than the governor and lawmakers envisioned when they passed the law.
And that, Mr. Warner's campaign argues, means Mr. Earley can't be trusted to make good in the future.
"This administration showed a lack of commitment to our law enforcement officials, cutting funding or neglecting to support our state police and our sheriffs, placing law enforcement in a very difficult position. Mark Earley embraced the governor's budget, and I'm not sure that he's got a lot of credibility on this," said Mo Elleithee, Mr. Warner's spokesman.
Mr. Elleithee said Mr. Warner will announce his own public-safety plan in the coming weeks.


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