Senate Passes Bill Reducing, Not Eliminating Crack Cocaine Penalties

The Senate today passed a bill reducing but not eliminating the disparate 100:1 ratio between crack and powder cocaine penalties. The bill also includes enhanced penalties for some drug offenders -- such as for those who distribute to a person over 64 years of age.

This sucks. It takes 500 grams of powder to trigger a 5 year mandatory minimum penalty. Under current law, it takes 5 grams of crack. Now, 28 grams of crack will do the trick. So an ounce of crack will carry the same penalty as almost a pound of powder (500 grams is 1/2 kilo, a kilo is 2.2 pounds.) And 280 grams of crack (10 ounces) will trigger the 10 year mandatory minimum penalty while 5 kilos of powder are required.

Worst of all, the bill is not retroactive and the reduction won't help anyone who has already been sentenced.[More...]

The unfair law has been in effect for 24 years. 75,000 people have been sentenced under it. Today, once again, the politics of compromise triumphed over principle, fairness and justice.

Congress and President Obama do not get to say they "fixed the problem." This bill doesn't fix the problem, it only reduces it.

The bill is here. It now goes to the House.

All we needed was a bill that eliminated the words "cocaine base" from the federal criminal code and eliminated the mandatory minimum penalty for mere possession. The House Judiciary Committee passed such a bill, Bobby Scott's H.R. 3245, last July. The Senate refused to follow suit.

Instead, we get another crime bill with increased penalties and no equalization of crack and powder penalties. While the reduction is an improvement, the bill is a big disappointment and the lack of retroactive application is inexcusable.

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    A step in the right direction... (none / 0) (#1)
    by A DC Wonk on Wed Mar 17, 2010 at 10:13:52 PM EST
    ... is still a step in the right direction.

    As someone who has worked with sentences in the federal system, and who has also decried this disparity, I had given up hope that it would ever change -- because politicians would be too scared of getting commercials "he voted to lower penalties on crack dealers!"

    Yes -- it doesn't fix it, just reduces it.  But it would be the first reduction of this unfair law in 24 years.

    and Congress is unlikely to revisit the issue (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Wed Mar 17, 2010 at 10:23:14 PM EST
    for another 24 years. Which means we'll never get equality. And I'm just as unhappy with the new guideline enhancements.

    God, this is awful... (none / 0) (#3)
    by masslib on Wed Mar 17, 2010 at 11:35:05 PM EST
    I really don't know what else to say.  I'm speechless.

    SITE VIOLATOR (none / 0) (#5)
    by shoephone on Wed Apr 13, 2011 at 05:31:55 PM EST