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.
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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