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July 22, 2009

House subcomittee takes first step to eliminate crack/powder federal sentencing disparity

Thanks to this post from TalkLeft and this press release from FAMM, I see that there has finally been some real, actual, tangible legislative movement on eliminating crack/powder federal sentencing disparity. Here are details from the FAMM press release:

Buoyed by Department of Justice support for eliminating the 100:1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine, and outraged by the high cost of incarcerating low-level drug offenders for excessively long prison terms, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security unanimously passed H.R. 3245, the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009, on July 22.

The bill would remove references to "cocaine base" from the U.S. Code, effectively treating all cocaine, including crack, the same for sentencing purposes. Original cosponsors of the bill include all Democratic members of the subcommittee and the sponsors of all other Democratic bills that address the cocaine sentencing disparity.

July 22, 2009 at 07:48 PM | Permalink


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It looks like they did it by splitting the difference. If passed, mandatory minimums for crack will be less harsh than before, but mandatories for powder will be worse.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Jul 23, 2009 10:48:35 AM

More tinkering at the margins of America's oppressive war on drugs. Big whoop!

Posted by: John K | Jul 23, 2009 2:16:17 PM

Am I missing something in the text of H.R. 3245 or does it not simply strike the quantities for crack and treat everything as if it was powder without reducing those quantities? Maybe I'm missing something obvious, but can someone show me how FAMM concluded that 50g of any form of cocaine will now trigger the 5 year minimum and 500g of any form of cocaine will now trigger the 10 year minimum rather than 500g=5yrs and 5kg=10yrs?

Posted by: Stu Sarratt | Jul 23, 2009 4:59:37 PM

Ah, THOMAS doesn't reflect yesterday's markup yet. I suppose a trigger of 500g would have the practical effect of abolishing mandatory minimums for crack but not powder, so that makes sense.

Posted by: Stu Sarratt | Jul 23, 2009 6:13:10 PM

Doug, your eagle eye readers found our mistake. The bill that was marked up in the subcommittee indeed equalizes penalties between crack and powder at the current powder cocaine levels (500 grams = 5 years and 5000 grams = ten years) by eliminating crack from the statute. But our press release had incorrect numbers in it. We have corrected the release thanks to Stu and Marc.

Posted by: Mary Price | Jul 24, 2009 12:51:30 PM

I'm just a concerned Aunt who has a Nephew in Jail for Drug charges. I'm just trying to learn any and everything I can about the Laws. He spent 85 months in federal prison for this reason. Now he's facing 1-15 in state. Just trying to get him out.

Posted by: Brenda | Sep 3, 2009 9:19:50 AM

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