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Editorial: Restoring fairness, sanity to cocaine drug war
What's the difference between crack cocaine and the powdered form of the same drug? Ask people who have been convicted of selling one or the other. Conviction for possession of only 5 grams of crack carries a mandatory minimum five years in prison. A drug dealer would have to be caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine to draw that same sentence.
Crack is used more often in poor, minority communities; powder cocaine is found generally in affluent, white neighborhoods. So this 100-to-1 disparity in sentencing creates a racial disparity, too. Tens of thousands of low-level crack dealers, most of them brown and black, have gone to prison while more affluent, mostly white dealers of powder cocaine have drawn light sentences.
Longtime critics of the crack and powder disparity recently attracted a powerful new ally. Eric Sterling was the lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee, which wrote the crack penalties into law 20 years ago. He says Congress made a mistake. Crack cocaine is not instantly addictive, as lawmakers had been told. Users of crack are not more prone to violence. Women addicted to crack are not more likely to abandon their babies, nor will babies exposed to crack in the womb inevitably suffer irreversible harm.
Sterling wants Congress not only to end the crack and powder imbalance, but also to force the Justice Department to focus its prosecutorial muscle on high-level dealers. In that way, the unjust and racist impact of this unfair law would be eased.
The U.S. Sentencing Commission is set to debate crack punishment issues this week. Legislation has been introduced in Congress as well. Both are hopeful signs that sensible reform may be possible. It is certainly overdue.
ive never tried it, but this guy who does alot of coke and used to smoke crack says its not the same. he said crack gets you real stoned an unenergetic. ive met crackheads before and even years after they stop, they still still cant hold thier hands still and shit, whereas many of the cokeheads ive known make a shitolad of money, but they spend alot on that powder.
-------------------- "When tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign foe."