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October 31, 2009

Senator Durbin responds to Washington Post editorial opposing crack/powder parity

The Washington Post has printed this letter from US Senator Dick Durbin, which responds to the Post's editorial (discussed here) that criticized Durbin's proposed legislation to eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.  Here are excerpts:

The editorial wrongly argued that crack is more addictive and associated with more violence than powder cocaine. It is that flawed logic that justified the original sentencing disparity.

Countless studies have shown that there's little difference in the physiological impact of crack and powder cocaine. The American Medical Association reports that "the physiological and psychoactive effects of cocaine are similar" regardless of whether the form is crack or powder.

Furthermore, the U.S. Sentencing Commission report you cited actually found that 10 percent of crack offenders were involved in violence -- not 25 percent, as the editorial asserted, using a different definition of "violence" -- while 6 percent of powder offenders were involved in violence. That 4-percentage-point difference hardly justifies a disparity in mandatory minimum sentences.

The editorial also failed to note that my bill would significantly increase penalties for violent and large-scale drug traffickers, refocusing limited federal resources on the worst offenders.

October 31, 2009 at 10:15 AM | Permalink


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