Senate Judiciary Committee approves bill on cocaine sentencing disparities

Posted on March 26th, 2010 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , .

cocaineThe US Senate Judiciary Committee on March 11 unanimously approved a bill to reduce sentencing disparities for powder and crack cocaine offenses. The Fair Sentencing Act, introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), is intended to bridge the gap between crack and powder cocaine sentencing by amending the Controlled Substances Act and the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act.

The Act directs the US Sentencing Commission (USSC) to review its trafficking guidelines to reflect aggravating factors such as the use of a weapon or commission of violence. It would increase the amount of crack cocaine required for imposition of a mandatory trafficking prison term and eliminate the five year mandatory prison sentence for simple possession of crack.

Last July, the US House Judiciary Committee approved a similar bill that would eliminate the distinction between crack cocaine and powder cocaine under federal law. Crack cocaine sentencing policies have raised controversy by virtue of their disparate impact on African American offenders. Last June, US Attorney General Eric Holder urged sentencing reform for crack cocaine, calling for a review of disparities between sentencing guidelines for powder and crack. In April, other DOJ officials urged Congress to eliminate the sentencing disparities between crimes committed involving crack and powder cocaine during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs. In April 2008, a study by the USSC reported that more than 3,000 prison inmates convicted of crack cocaine offenses have had their sentences reduced under an amendment to sentencing guidelines. In 2007, the USSC voted unanimously to give retroactive effect to an earlier sentencing guideline amendment that reduced crack cocaine penalties. (Jurist, March 12)

Photo by In a NY State of Mind


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