Drug Policy

Shorter Crack Sentences

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This week the U.S. Sentencing Commission officially notified Congress that it plans to change its sentencing guidelines for crack possession, moving the penalty ranges closer to those for cocaine powder. Under the commission's amendments, the recommended range for possessing five grams of crack would be 51 to 63 months, down from 63 to 78 months; the range for 50 grams would be 97 to 121 months, down from 121 to 151 months. The amendments, which will take effect automatically unless Congress overrides them within six months, do not affect the statutory mandatory minimum sentences established by Congress in the 1980s: five years for five grams of crack (the same as the penalty for 500 grams of cocaine powder) and 10 years for 50 grams (the same as the penalty for five kilograms of cocaine powder). Since 1995 the commission has been urging Congress to revisit this unjust, irrational 100-to-1 disparity, which results in racially skewed sentencing that punishes low-level offenders more severely than major dealers. The current Congress may finally mind the gap, although it's more likely to shrink the disparity than eliminate it entirely.

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  1. While it’s good to see that they’re recommending lower sentences, this diesn’t seem like a major overhaul, even if it passes.

    Also, how is the recommended range for possessing five grams of crack would be 51 to 63 months, down from 63 to 78 months; the range for 50 grams would be 97 to 121 months, down from 121 to 151 months determined? The numbers are totally arbitrary.

  2. Is a 5g pile of crack even visible to the naked eye?

  3. Yeah, could anyone tell me how big a typical “serving” of crack is? How many servings is 5g?

  4. AnotherDave,
    According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction the average single dose for cocaine or crack is 100-100mg at street purity. IOW, 5g = 25 to 50 “rocks”, or a good day’s dealing. It is a small time quantity; one that guarantees that even the lowest dealer gets jail time but only if they deal in the salt form of the drug.

  5. “The amendments, which will take effect automatically unless Congress overrides them within six months”
    Alright, as a liberaltarian, I often hear more GOP minded libertarians say “hey, the Democrats are just as bad on drug issues as the GOP.” Now, let’s take bets on which party is more likely to raise holy hell when these drug penalties get lowered. Start sweating all you GOP lovers, reality is about to fall down on ya blogging speculations yet again…

  6. How long before Rangel changes his mind again and wants stiffer penalties while blaming the “epedemic” on racists flooding his district?

  7. Guy Montag,

    Did Rangel cut you off in traffic once? You have a truly weird fixation on the man.

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