Lawmakers Aim To End Sentencing Disparity Between Crack Cocaine And Powder Cocaine Cases
If you ask most people today which drug is the most dangerous, most will say that it is fentanyl. This makes sense because fentanyl causes more overdose deaths than any other drug, and because most people who consume fentanyl do not know that they are consuming it; they think they are getting methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, or even pure cannabis. Crack cocaine is more a symbol of an unfounded moral panic than a genuine cause for fear, and yet the “don’t panic” message seems not to have reached federal judges. Today, the sentence you get in federal court for possessing a small amount of crack cocaine is the same as the sentence you would get for possessing 18 times as much powder cocaine. Lawmakers are attempting to finalize a deal before the end of 2022 that would eliminate, or at least reduce, the disparity between sentencing in federal crack cocaine cases and powder cocaine cases. A Tampa drug crime lawyer can help you if you are facing criminal charges for cocaine possession.
The EQUAL Act Could Reduce or Eliminate Cocaine Sentencing Disparities
How did the prison sentences for crack cocaine get to be so much longer than the sentences for powder cocaine? In short, it was because lawmakers in the 1980s were afraid of it. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act into law. It set cocaine sentences at a 100 to 1 ratio. In those days, the time you would spend in federal prison for possessing a single dose of crack cocaine was the same as you would get for possessing 100 times as much powder cocaine. The result was that people spent decades in prison for possessing just enough cocaine to keep one person awake for one night.
This situation remained until President Barack Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act into law. This law set the sentencing ratio at 18 to 1, and it remains in effect today. As of 2022, there is a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for people convicted in federal court of possession of 28 grams of crack cocaine.
Congress is attempting to pass a version of the EQUAL Act by the end of this year. The version of the bill that passed in the House of Representatives last year would have eliminated the sentencing disparity entirely, so that there would be no difference in sentences for crack cocaine and equivalent amounts of powder cocaine. The main argument against eliminating the disparity is higher rates of subsequent arrests for people convicted of crack possession, compared to those convicted of powder cocaine possession. Meanwhile, the Senate is working toward a bipartisan deal that would reduce the sentencing disparity to 2.5 to 1.
Contact Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Bryant Scriven
A criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are facing charges for possession of crack cocaine, powder cocaine, or another controlled substance. Contact Scriven Law in Tampa, Florida to schedule a consultation.