Crack vs. powder cocaine Sentencing disparity may change
By Brittany Whitley
Published: March 21, 2008
Senate hearings began in February in an effort to form a bill to reduce the disparity between the crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentencing law. As the law stands now, there is a 100-1-weight ratio between the sentencing of the two drugs. Basically, this means that possessing 5 grams of crack cocaine carries the same sentence as possessing 500 grams of powder cocaine.
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R) is proposing a bill that would reduce the weight ratio to 20-1.tephen Boyd, press secretary for Sessions, said negotiations at a staff level are under way to combine a couple of bills on a package that could be moved though the legislature soon.
“Not in the next couple of weeks, but soon,” he said. “(It) has a lot to do with political feasibility.”
Sessions has been working on changing the law for six years, Boyd said.
“This (bill) appears to have more momentum than it has in the past,” he said.
And the senator has been working with other legislators on the bill.
Everyone has the same goal in mind,” Boyd said. “To reduce the disparity and make it more fair.”
There are two different schools of thought on the reduction.
The first is to get rid of the sentencing disparity completely, said Bill Piper, the national director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that lobbies congress to affect drug change. Joe Biden (D-Del.) is presenting this option.
The second is to reduce the disparity, Piper said. This is the option Sessions is proposing.
Piper said the current law was constructed during the 1980s when crack hysteria was rampant.
“Cocaine is the only drug that has penalties for how the drug is used,” he said.
In the 1980s, it was thought that crack cocaine was more dangerous and addictive than powder.
Senate commission science has found that crack cocaine has the same addiction properties as powder cocaine, he said.
“Sessions was showing leadership before it was popular,” Piper said, referring to Session’s years of work on getting the law reduced.