In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA), reducing the 100-to-1 federal sentencing ratio between crack and powder cocaine to 18-to-1. Then in 2011, the U.S. Sentencing Commission amended its Sentencing Guidelines based on the FSA and unanimously agreed to make those changes retroactive. However, because of statutory mandatory minimum sentences, the Commission’s retroactive amendment does not apply to all offenders who were sentenced before the FSA was enacted in 2010. The President should establish a process so that people who were sentenced to crack offenses before the FSA could have their sentences reviewed to determine whether it is appropriate to resentence them based on the new 18 to 1 ratio.
The President should use his constitutional pardon power to commute the sentences of crack cocaine offenders based on the 18 to 1 ratio and create a clemency board to review crack cocaine sentences that did not benefit from the FSA. This is but one small step the President can start to phase out the failed 40 year “war on drugs,” an ineffective, costly and discriminatory government effort.