Key House Committee Votes To End Crack Cocaine Sentencing Disparity

July 29, 2009

Landmark Bill Will Now Head To House Floor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (202) 675-2312 or media@dcaclu.org 

WASHINGTON – The House Judiciary Committee today voted to pass a bill that would eliminate the discriminatory disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing under federal law. Today’s vote clears the way for H.R. 3245, the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009, to be voted on by the full House. The bill removes references to “cocaine base” from the U.S. federal code and takes the welcome step of removing the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine.

More than two decades ago, based on assumptions about crack which are now known to be false, heightened penalties for crack cocaine offenses were adopted.  Sentences for crack are currently equivalent to the sentences for 100 times the amount of powder cocaine, and the impact falls disproportionately on African Americans.

The following can be attributed to Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislation Office:

“For over 20 years, the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing has been a blight on our justice system. Years of medical and legal research have shown no appreciable difference between crack and powder cocaine, and no justification for allowing a vast sentencing gap between them. Policymakers across the ideological spectrum, including former President George W. Bush, have spoken out against its inherent injustice. This historic legislation is long overdue. Congress, today, is one step closer to ending the crack-powder disparity and unjust mandatory minimum sentences.”

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