While aimed at cocaine, the law, which went into effect on July 14 when Gov. Michael S. Dukakis signed it, also applies to anyone convicted of possession of PCP, a hallucinogen known as angel dust, with intent to distribute it. It added to the existing statute language that carries a one-year minimum mandatory sentence for first offenders and a five-year minimum for second offenders.
[William Keating] said the law was created because so many defendants charged with trafficking in cocaine were pleading guilty to the reduced charge of possession with intent to distribute "and just walking." Another aspect of the law was changed, setting at 14 grams the amount needed to charge someone with trafficking in cocaine. The previous requirement was 28 grams.
[Nancy Gertner] contends that because of the law, police will not have to invest as much time in investigations, instead being able to move in quickly without regard to the amount of cocaine involved. That, she said, could lead police to go after easier, smalltime dealers instead of bigger ones. She also said police and prosecutors could use the law as leverage when it is thrown on as a "laundry list" of charges. That could lead defendants to plead guilty to all other charges simply to get the charge carrying the mandatory sentence thrown out.