Drug Policy

Shorter Crack Sentences Take Effect


The U.S. Sentencing Commission's guideline revisions shrinking the penalty gap between crack and cocaine powder took effect last week. (Amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines take effect automatically six months after they're approved by the commission unless they're overriden by Congress, which in this case took no action.) As a result of the changes, The Christian Science Monitor reports, "up to 4 in 5 people found guilty of crack-cocaine offenses will get sentences that are, on average, 16 months shorter than they would have been under the former guidelines." The commission has not decided yet whether to make the changes retroactive. If it does, says the Monitor, "more than 19,500 people now serving time for crack offenses could see their sentences reduced by an average of 27 months."

Families Against Mandatory Minimums makes the case for retroactivity here (PDF). Although the commission can reduce the sentencing disparity between crack and cocaine powder, only Congress has the power to change the five- and 10-year mandatory minimums that kick in for crack at one-hundredth the quantity they do for cocaine powder. My May column on why the disparity makes no sense is here.

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  1. Although the commission can reduce the sentencing disparity between crack and cocaine powder, only Congress has the power to change the five- and 10-year mandatory minimums that kick in for crack at one-hundredth the quantity they do for cocaine powder.

    IANAL, but wouldn’t a court be able to argue the discrepancy is unconstitutional based upon the 14th’s Equal Protection clause or the 8th’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

  2. six months after they’re approved by the commission unless they’re overriden by Congress, which in this case took no action.

    Tell me a “do nothing” congress is a bad thing. Tell me. Tell me I dare you. I double-dare you motherf*cker!

  3. This can’t be happening!

  4. I watched a man cook crack once. He took about an once of pure, beautiful cocaine and dropped it into a pot of boiling water and what-have-you. In time it turned into crack.

    What a waste of beautiful, sweet, sweet powder! THAT, is the real crime behind crack.

  5. And I’ll bet he left it al dente Philistines…

  6. That should be

    I’ll bet he left it al dente. Philistines!

  7. Boy, sending people to jail for using illegal drugs sure makes them not want to use illegal drugs when they get out. Prison is the best ever way to rehabilitate people!

  8. I predict that cocaine prices will decline this year while crack prices increase.

  9. But now how will anyone be able to convince teens that it isn’t a good idea to do crack?

  10. the dealers of cocaine should have been the ones to get the longer sentences for the fact you would not have crack without cocaine and the government knows it been knew it and personally it was used to deliver the blow to the african american community as well as low income communities throughout this nation when the liquor wasn’t working to their pleasures they just introduced something more controlling you know they love control. look at what they subject our children to on t.v, in movies and music if they really cared for the future of this nation and not just their family and friends all politicians would have took care of this years ago. ask your president what he think about the sentencing difference of the two drugs . white powder black crack buy what you can afford they could not be the only drug users. they even doped their soldiers really who in the government really care. it’s just business

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