The U.S. Congress is planning to reduce sentencing differences between crack and powder cocaine convictions. For the last 24 years higher sentences were given for possession of crack when compared to powder cocaine convictions.
Under the current law possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine results in a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence. The same five-year prison sentence applies to a person convicted of trafficking 500 grams of powder cocaine. The new legislation would apply the five-year term for possession of 28 grams or an ounce of crack. This is about the average amount a dealer carries for sale.
As a result a person convicted of crack cocaine possession will get the same mandatory prison term as someone with 100 times the same amount of powder cocaine.
The reason for changing the conviction law is the result of the disparity between sentencing for blacks and whites who possess the same amount of the drug whether in powder form or in crack form. Blacks make up 30 percent of crack users and account for more than 80 percent of those convicted of federal crack offenses. The legislation will reduce the ratio to about 18-1.
The Senate and House have passed the legislation it now goes to the President for signature.