Washington Post Endorses Weak Crack Cocaine Reform Bill

The Washington Post has called on the House to pass a watered down crack cocaine reform bill, introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin and drug warrior Sen. Jeff Sessions and negotiated with Sen. Sessions, Lindsay Graham and Orrin Hatch.

Rather than equalizing crack cocaine and powder cocaine penalties, it would reduce the disparity so that crack is still punished 18 times more severely than powder. The bill also adds sentencing enhancements for some drug crimes. Worst of all, the bill specifically states it is not retroactive, meaning it will not help those already serving unfair draconian sentences.

The bill that the full House (and then the Senate) needs to pass is H.R. 3245, the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009, by Rep. Bobby Scott. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee in July, 2009 and has seen no action since. [More...]

Scott's bill is simple. It simply removes references to “cocaine base” from the U.S. Code, effectively treating all cocaine the same for sentencing purposes. It does not mention retroactive application (which while not as good as allowing it, is better than prohibiting it) And it creates no sentence enhancements.

See: Judiciary Committee Waters Down Crack-Powder Cocaine Sentencing Bill and Senate Passes Bill Reducing, Not Eliminating Crack Cocaine Penalties.

The Durbin-Sessions bill is an improvement, but inadequate and a disappointment. Tell the House to pass Bobby Scott's bill. We need to completely eliminate the disparity, and allow the change to be retroactive.

For those calling it a first step, don't kid yourselves. If Congress passes the watered-down version, they won't be inclined to revisit the issue for years to come. The tens of thousands serving unjust sentences will continue to languish in our prisons.

And, Memo to Washington Post: Get your facts straight. In defending a continued disparity, it says:

This is an important acknowledgment that crack, because of its addictive properties and its ability to quickly destroy the user's health, is different from powder cocaine and deserves reasonably tougher penalties.

Crack and powder cocaine are pharmacologically identical subtances. The pharmacological effects of crack cocaine are not more harmful than powder cocaine.

There is no scientific basis for treating crack and powder cocaine differently. it's time to equalize the penalties for crack and powder at the current powder rate, eliminate the mandatory minimum penalties for possession and make the change retroactive.

We elected President Obama who promised to end the disparity. Instead, Durbin is letting three of the most conservative members of the Senate, Sessions, Hatch and Graham, call the shots. They call it bi-partisanship, I call it a cop-out.

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    Your last sentence captures my initial reaction (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by ruffian on Thu Jul 22, 2010 at 11:45:10 AM EST
    Why is Durbin negotiating with those three over this? I'm beginning to think they are the only Republicans on the judiciary committee. Assuming of course he has to negotiate with Republicans at all. Just seems like the typical 'compromise first - debate later' mentality of this administration and Dem Senate leadership.

    Where are the doctors? (none / 0) (#2)
    by NYShooter on Thu Jul 22, 2010 at 12:15:49 PM EST
    In the discussions about Linda L. we pointed out the virtual impossibility of rehabilitation through either will power or conventional "treatment."

    I understand the chemical relationship between crystal & powder cocaine, that they're equal. The effect on the user is quite different, however. So its not the difference in penalties that I'm so disgusted with.

    What should have mitigated the penalty differences, however, is that "crack" was developed specifically to target low income people, primarily minorities.

    The sons and daughters of politicians don't hang out on street corners waiting to buy crack. I'm against incarceration for any drug "offenses, but if they're going to discriminate they should have including massive funding for treatment & education.
    To leave prior sentences untouched borders on sadism. Those pols are beyond redemption.

    Just sickening!

    Why don't we just admit that the war (none / 0) (#3)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Jul 22, 2010 at 12:43:29 PM EST
    on drugs is lost.

    Tell everyone who is addicted that all they have to do us go down to their local drug store, sign up, and get all they want of free 100% pure whatever.

    MJ could be sold like booze.

    The money saved would pay for the drugs and we'd have plenty left over for education and enforcing the illegal sale of drugs.

    Exceptions? Speed and date rape type drugs. Both are way too harmful to the individual and society.

    Will it happen? Nope.

    Disclaimer. My drug of choice is a good Cabernet
    with dinner and a Bud when I'm through working in the yard.

    Free drugs... (none / 0) (#4)
    by kdog on Thu Jul 22, 2010 at 12:56:56 PM EST
    is never gonna fly in a capitalist country with puritan roots my friend, no matter how smart it may be.  Ending prohibition alone can't seem to fly, despite all the evidence of the additional harm it causes.  

    As for the disparity...coca is coca is coca...it's straight up Jim Crow criminal law.  Textbook inequality under the law.  Without even getting into the gross violation of individual liberty that is drug prohibition.


    Actually free drugs could be sold as (none / 0) (#5)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Jul 22, 2010 at 07:38:18 PM EST
    a gene pool enhancer.


    But your right. As long as the police can seize and sell property they will fight it.


    Not Funny (none / 0) (#6)
    by squeaky on Thu Jul 22, 2010 at 08:02:17 PM EST
    Particularly because of your stated views on eugenics and natural selection, iow it is not a joke but a position for you.

    My stated views on eugenics?? (none / 0) (#7)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Jul 22, 2010 at 09:52:31 PM EST
    Keep smearing. We all know you.

    As soon as you start giving away free drugs the use will increase. Now, if you cap the use you will have a black market... which is what the "free" is supposed to stop.

    So by giving anyone all the drugs they want you will speed the death of some individuals.

    Hard for me to see why that bothers you since you endorse Death Panels for us Senior Citizens.


    Yes Eugenics (none / 0) (#8)
    by squeaky on Thu Jul 22, 2010 at 10:05:37 PM EST
    Eugenics is the study and practice of selective breeding applied to humans, with the aim of improving the species. In a historical and broader sense, eugenics can also be a study of "improving human genetic qualities."

    Actually free drugs could be sold as (none / 0) (#5)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Jul 22, 2010 at 07:38:18 PM EST
    a gene pool enhancer.

    And you have mentioned that the gene pool would improve with those stuck and dying in the NOLA disaster.

    And when you get a chance, please let me know when you find anything I have said here comes even close to "death panels for senior citizens."

    I have even encouraged you to take your meds, when you seemed to be losing it... like now.


    Prove it, oh great smearer... (none / 0) (#10)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Jul 22, 2010 at 10:50:21 PM EST
    No. I have not made that comment.

    And since addiction seems to run across all groups of people, your definition of eugenics obviously does not apply.

    Death Panels? Don't you support Obamacare?


    Proof (none / 0) (#11)
    by squeaky on Fri Jul 23, 2010 at 12:48:51 AM EST
    Here is one of your comments suggesting that the if the people that didn't leave who were stuck in NOLA during the disaster, died, it would be an improvement to the gene pool.

    The subject was your claim that I support (none / 0) (#12)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Jul 23, 2010 at 07:58:52 AM EST

    The woman in question was a tourist. She didn't live there and she had the means to leave.

    She did not.

    I stand by my statement which was a flip way of saying she was stupid to have stayed.

    My comment had nothing to do with eugenics and/or race, which you claim.

    So you lied. Big time.


    Really (none / 0) (#14)
    by squeaky on Fri Jul 23, 2010 at 04:33:48 PM EST
    Well the tourist, as you hang your hat on, was a black tourist. And, according to you she was stupid, and also happened to be black. Your position in the NOLA disaster was the the people who stayed were stupid, because they defied an order to leave.

    It just so happens that 90% of the stupid people were poor and black and has no means to leave.

    It is clear that your comment about improving the gene pool would apply to all stupid (and black) people who stayed. The fact that she was a tourist is minor compared to the fact that, according to you she was stupid, and black.

    Any time you talk of improving the gene pool by eliminating stupid people, who also by chance happen to be black, you are talking about eugenics. You do not even have to know the word, because all it amounts to is a nasty racist sentiment cloaked by pseudo science. The sentiment has been around for a long time, well before eugenics was invented.


    mind boggling (none / 0) (#9)
    by Peter G on Thu Jul 22, 2010 at 10:41:02 PM EST
    ... why the Dems -- or the republicans, for that matter -- are pushing this without retroactivity.  Too much justice?

    numb (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by NYShooter on Fri Jul 23, 2010 at 02:25:30 PM EST
    The values of a country can be measured by the treatment of its least fortunate people

    How do you look someone in their face and say, "you will stay and rot in this cage because we made a mistake?"

    America's soul is dying


    "No scientific basis" (none / 0) (#15)
    by diogenes on Sat Jul 24, 2010 at 12:29:24 AM EST
    "...There is no scientific basis for treating crack and powder cocaine differently."

    If crack and powder are the same, then why would anyone use or deal crack which has much greater penalties?  If crack has some special inducement which inspires people to use it despite the sentencing differences, then maybe people are voting with their feet about it.