Sentencing Disparities between Crack and Powder Cocaine Key Takeaways:
- In 1986, Congress passed a law to establish mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking offenses, which treated crack and cocaine powder offenses using a 100 to 1 ratio.
- Under this format, a dealer charged with trafficking 400 grams of powder, worth approximately $40,000, could receive a shorter sentence than a user he supplied with crack valued at $500.
- Crack and powder cocaine are derived from the same source and are similar drugs. Crack is basically Powder diluted in baking soda and water and is therefore significantly cheaper than powder cocaine.
- These sentencing disparities produced enormous racial disparities. POCs received harsher sentences than did white defendants who were sentenced for cocaine-related offenses.
- Congress reduced this disparity in 2010 with the Fair Sentencing Act (a reform to the First Step Act) but issues remain.
- The ratio was reduced to 18:1, yet many are advocating that this is still too wide a gap and the ratio should be removed altogether.
- The supreme court determined that those sentenced under the 100:1 ratio cannot legally be eligible to reduce their sentence under the First Step Act of 2018, yet the court called for legislation to make this possible.
- The EQUAL Act (currently) in congress would accomplish the above reforms.
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