There is a real chance that Congress will finally fix a significant sentencing disparity problem with crack and powder cocaine. Current sentencing guidelines require those convicted of carrying at least 28 grams of crack to be sentenced to five years in prison, the same for someone convicted of carrying 500 grams of powdered cocaine. Those caught with 280 grams of crack get ten years the same as if they carried 5 kg of coke.
The reasons for the disparity in sentences have to do with the possibility of addiction. The prevailing belief is that it is easier to get addicted to crack than to cocaine. Newsweek portrayed crack in June 1986 as an epidemic in the United States that seemed almost completely impossible to stop.
The reality shows something completely different.
“Contrary to media stories and drug war rhetoric, the majority of people who have tried crack or smoked cocaine have not continued to use it,” said the 1997 book Crack in America: demonic drugs and social justice edited by Harry G. Levine and Craig Reinarmann noted. “Daily crack use, like daily heroin injection, occurs primarily among the poorest and most marginalized people in American society, and only among a small minority of them. In its most popular year, only a small percentage of people who used cocaine used crack. Crack never became a popular or widely used drug in the United States or anywhere else in the world. “
The book notes that Newsweek later retracted its comments on crack addiction in 1991 without admitting any involvement and described it as this hideously horrible drug that people are instantly hooked on.
However, US drug laws remained extremely harsh on those who chose to use crack instead of cocaine. Congress seeks to change it with the EQUAL Act that is currently in the House Judiciary Committee. The bill, which includes bipartisan support from Republicans like Dan Crenshaw and Thomas Massie and Democrats like Shiela Jackson Lee and Jerrold Nadler, would eliminate increased penalties for cocaine-based drugs like crack.
One reason for the need for reform is based on race. Statistics compiled by Jason Pye of the Due Process Institute show a great disparity towards locking up blacks compared to whites. Opponents might argue that African-Americans use crack more than Caucasians, yet statistics show otherwise. Talbott Recovery indicated More whites are likely to use crack than blacks. Which means that the feds and local law enforcement targeted black communities rather than white ones. A major problem from a police point of view.
Will the reform happen? That depends on the movement within both houses of Congress. They are on hiatus at the moment, but could return before the end of the year to review this absolutely horrendous sentencing law again. One can only hope this is fixed sooner rather than later.