Anti-Drug Bias


Writing in Saturday's Washington Post, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation President Eric Sterling, who served as counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1979 to 1989, and Families Against Mandatory Minimums President Julie Stewart recall how the death of college basketball star Len Bias from a cocaine overdose two decades ago led to draconian federal drug penalties that are still with us. A recent CQ Weekly article contrasts the highly punitive reaction to crack in the 1980s with the current, less harsh reaction to methamphetamine. The story suggests the difference has much to do with race, although (as I noted in my recent review of the book Tulia) black politicians such as Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) were at least as gung-ho about the crack crackdown as their white colleagues.