Jeff Sessions' Crack Cocaine Solution

There seems to be wide agreement in Congress that the disparity in sentencing between smokable and snortable cocaine, because of which five grams of crack gets you the same mandatory five-year sentence as 500 grams of powder, is unjust, makes no pharmacological sense, and leads to racially skewed punishment. Even hard-line drug warriors such as Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) are having second thoughts:

Congress thought by having very harsh sentences, it would deter the spread of crack into the inner cities and around the country. The truth is, it didn't stop it. It spread very rapidly. Now we need to ask ourselves, what is the right sentence for this bad drug. I think it's time to adjust. I think it's past time to do this.

But how to fix the problem? Congress could simply eliminate the sentencing disparity by telling federal courts to treat crack the same way they treat cocaine powder—the solution recommended by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. But that would be too easy; more to the point, it would make legislators look too easy on crime. So Sessions has introduced a bill that would reduce the disparity without eliminating it and do so partly by increasing the penalties for cocaine powder offenses. How is it that federal penalties for cocaine possession are suddenly too lenient?

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  • ||

    Ten years ago when I took Criminal Law it was clear to me that any move to reduce the disparity in sentencing guidelines would come in part from increasing the powder sentences. Alas, this is not because I'm so prescient, but because it was so obvious that's what would happen. No surprise, either, that this comes from a tool like Sessions.

    Maybe I'm just grumpy, though.

  • ||

    Obviously, you aren't thinking of the children.

    With that out of the way, the proposal does offer a lesser sentence for crack than currently exists. It could be that with that provision a compromise bill lowering crack sentences but keeping cocaine sentences at the present rate might be passed.

    And I might be living in dreamland.

  • ||

    A move to help the black folk out on the racist sentencing guidelines in a place where half his constituents are black. Sounds like good pandering to me.

  • ||

    So what is the sentencing disparity if I consume cocaine in the form of a sweet carbonated beverage?

  • ||

    Rex, you beat me to it.

    "They already make a crack cocaine solution: Rockstar."

  • ||

    "Obviously, you aren't thinking of the children."

    Are you in favor of sluggish children or something?

  • ||

    I can't believe the sentencing guidelines got by the Reagans.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOsnlVEanxk

  • The Panderosa||

    Someone didn't have in mind the etymology of pander.

  • ||

    Heh, be careful when you criticize for not being consistent. The object of your criticism might just get consistent in the wrong direction.

  • ||

    sage,
    I think Rex Rhino may have thinking of this.

  • Guy Montag||

    the disparity in sentencing between smokable and snortable cocaine,

    Yea, let's just leave out the Honerable Representative Rangel, who was for this disparity before he was against it. He had the most air-time babble of any Congresscritter about how it was so needed and blamed it on outsiders from the communities where it was being abused.

    Somehow, he is all against it now, after he convinced all it was a problem!

    Perhaps he will introduce another "slavery" bill to draft more people to administer "treatment", or something.

  • ||

    "Someone didn't have in mind the etymology of pander"

    WTF does the study of bugs have to do with anything?

  • ||

    We have thought of the chilren. We give them Adderall...an amphetamine just like the ones street pushers sell.

  • ||

    Typical D.C.

    "We must do something about the disparity. This is something. Therefore, we must do it."

  • ||

    We give them Adderall...an amphetamine just like the ones street pushers sell

    Will people stop with this Tom Cruise induced bullshit already? Look at a PET scan. Yes Adderall is a stimulant in the same chemical family as cocaine but equating the two is like saying "We give our children mopeds... a vehicle just like the ones NASCAR drivers use"

  • Egon||

    Because political opposition to drugs is a religion, The War on Drugs is a holy war. Therefore, talk of reduced punishment is heresy.

  • ||

    I didn't equate Adderall with cocaine. I equated it with amphetamines. I didn't do that because of anything Tom Cruise has said but because Adderall is, in fact, a pair of amphetamines.

    By the way, I've seen Nascar drivers walk away after flipping their car several times in a fireball while moped accidents can be fatal...especially when foolishly given to kids.

  • Guy Montag||

    "We give our children mopeds... a vehicle just like the ones NASCAR drivers use"

    Where can ah git me onna 'em?

    By the way, I've seen Nascar drivers walk away after flipping their car several times in a fireball while moped accidents can be fatal...especially when foolishly given to kids.

    Oh, forget it.

  • David McElroy||

    Sessions is a former federal prosecutor, so what should we expect from him? Politically, it would be stupid of him to sponsor something that would reduce the penalty for crack. Can you imagine the TV ads against him? "Jeff Sessions made life easier for crack cocaine dealers by reducing the penalty for this drug that's destroying our cities and killing our children. Why does Jeff Sessions care more about cocaine dealers than about our children?" Doing the right thing and doing what's political acceptable aren't necessarily the same thing, even when you KNOW the right thing to do. :-(

  • ||

    In a state where a lot of white voters are cheesed off at republicans and the black vote is overwhelmingly democrat, a measure seen as compassionate to poor blacks could be political gold on election day for a republican.

  • ||

    Yes Adderall is a stimulant in the same chemical family as cocaine but equating the two is like saying "We give our children mopeds... a vehicle just like the ones NASCAR drivers use"

    Adderall isn't remotely in the same family as cocaine, which is a tropane alkaloid. Adderall is a racemic mixture of two dextroamphetamine salts and two racemic amphetamine salts intended to give a more prolonged effect. Functionally, all amphetamines work through the same pathway. Methamphetamine simply has a methyl group attached to the amphetamine backbone. This makes it slightly more fat soluble, and therefore it penetrates to the brain better, but the biochemical effects are not dramatically different from the drug that tens of thousands of kids take daily.

    Many people seem to have the incorrect perception that some drugs are "too potent," and this is why they have been made illegal. The reality is that the subculture that surrounds use of a drug has a lot more to do with its being banned than its potency, effects, or even toxicity. Heroin, for example, is schedule one, but it's not a very potenent narcotic compared to such drugs as etorphine, or sufentanyl, which are not associated with any derided subculture. Marijuana is a classic example - a drug with no known toxicity, no capacity for overdose, and no withdrawl symptoms even after the heaviest use, that is largely illegal because of the people who use it.

  • Harry j Anslinger||

    " no withdrawl symptoms even after the heaviest use"


    You ever been around one of those dopers when he suddenly couldn't get his pot?

    it is not pretty

  • ||

    So Sessions has introduced a bill that would reduce the disparity without eliminating it and do so partly by increasing the penalties for cocaine powder offenses.

    He must be high.

  • ||

    "We believe the current federal sentencing policy and guidelines for crack cocaine offenses are reasonable," Justice spokesman Dean Boyd says.

    Higher penalties for crack offenses reflect its greater harm, he says, adding that crack traffickers are more likely to use weapons and have more significant criminal histories than powder cocaine dealers.


    Someone tell Dean Boyd that circular reasoning is the crack of logical fallacies.

  • ||

    We give them Adderall...an amphetamine just like the ones street pushers sell.

    Well good for them - the real problem highlighted in the sentence above is not that we give kids drugs that "street pushers" sell, it's that something as highly useful as amphetamines have been made illegal (and hence the province of said street pushers) unless you can convince a doctor to give you a prescription. Anyway, I doubt many people buying the amphetamines in Adderall from some frat-boy or high school skate-punk selling his ADHD script would really call them "street pushers" in the usual sense of the word. More like simple entrepreneurs taking advantage of the insane regulatory environment surrounding a beneficial, even enjoyable, chemical.

    And just for the record, I'm not really taking a position on whether it is a good thing or not to give that chemical to kids - I don't really know. But the sentence seems to imply that it is a bad thing because these are generally illegal drugs - but their illegality does not demonstrate that at all.

  • isonomist||

    And just for the record, I'm not really taking a position on whether it is a good thing or not to give that chemical to kids - I don't really know.

    Stimulants do work as an ADHD therapy. That doesn't mean they aren't overused. Schoolteachers will sometimes insist that kids be given stimulants even when their parents object.

  • ||

    Many people seem to have the incorrect perception that some drugs are "too potent," and this is why they have been made illegal. The reality is that the subculture that surrounds use of a drug has a lot more to do with its being banned than its potency, effects, or even toxicity

    You seem to know a ton about psychopharmicology, but the above statements are, from what I've seen with my own eyes, just not correct.

    In the past, I've lived with crack users. and I've witnessed the before and after (addiction). Crack is only slightly less detrimental to a human being's actions than rabies is to a dog's.

    In the past, I've lived with other drug users. In the past, I've used drugs (though not crack). From what I've seen, playing down the effects of less-potent drugs vs. crack (and saying the only important difference is in the subcultures) is like playing up the similarities between checkers and Death Race 2000 (because they're both games). There's just no comparison.

    It's not a "subculture" that makes crack users such frequent criminals. It's not race. It's the crack. It's the strangth and cost of the addiction and the fact that no one who smokes crack will ever be able to make enough money to pay for the habit through employment, let alone pay for food and the habit through emplyment.

    Again, this is not because the kind of people who smoke crack have low-paying jobs. People who smoke crack have low-paying jobs because they cannot function at all for anything but very short periods of time, high or not.

    They commit violent and/or property crimes because these crimes can be done quickly (see above about functionality) and for high enough economic returns to balance the weekly ledger. And they do commit violent and property crimes frequently. They are ever-starving animals in permanent fight or flight mode.

    And the armament of crack dealers? They arm themselves partly because they never know when a crackhead may decide to attack them and try to make off with the product.

    A crackhouse would still be a crackhouse whether crack was legal or not. Crack subculture does not produce a Lord of the Flies life. Crack does.

    Before anyone accuses me of ex-narcotic zealotry, I do think most (if not all) drugs other than crack should be legal. Other drugs won't substantially affect me or anyone else who doesn't wish to be affected. And I can't stand people like Sessions telling me I can't do something to myself, whether or not I want to do that thing.

    However,
    in my experience,

    if I read that the penalty for making crack out of cocaine and selling it was the same as the penalty for weaponizing the naturally-occurring anthrax in cow dung and selling it, I wouldn't lose a night's sleep.

  • ||

    A crackhouse would still be a crackhouse whether crack was legal or not.

    If crack were legal there wouldn't be crackhouses. And if cocaine were legal, crack would go the way of bathtub gin.

  • ||

    Sessions is merely employing Rule #1 for any congressperson - A.B.C. Always be campaigning.

    Legisltaion is both a byproduct of past and present campaigns and a bulwark for future ones. The good of his constituents or of the commonweal is rarely, if ever, the primary concern.

  • ||

    if I read that the penalty for making crack out of cocaine and selling it was the same as the penalty for weaponizing the naturally-occurring anthrax in cow dung and selling it, I wouldn't lose a night's sleep.

    Well, sure, because the only thing standing between now and the complete elimination of crack is harsher penalties.

  • ||

    Guy Montag:

    Re: Rangel. In which bizarro world is it better to stick to being wrong than it is to admit being wrong and do the right thing? I don't understand the foundation of your attacks anymore.

  • Andy||

    On the upside, after a few rich people getting hit with crack-like sentencing for blow, you're going to get a whole bunch of new, deep-pocketed anti-drug law warriors.

    Aw, who am I kidding. No one will convict a rich person on a drug charge. Nice thought though.

  • ||

    "Jeff Sessions' Crack Cocaine Solution"

    Do you drink it or inject it?

  • ||

    ...and no withdrawl symptoms even after the heaviest use...

    That is just plain false, especially if smoked on a daily basis. Maybe it is true for some, since drugs tend to affect people differently.

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