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House Passes Bill Reducing Sentencing Disparity With Crack Cocaine

file photo/dea

file photo/dea

By Glynnesha Taylor
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The House on Wednesday passed legislation drastically reducing the sentencing disparity between crack and powdered cocaine — a longtime disparity critics saw as unfairly targeting African Americans.

Previously, under the 1986 law, a person selling crack got the same sentence as someone selling 100 times the amount of powdered cocaine. The ratio will now go to 18 to 1.

The old bill became law while crack-cocaine was spinning out of control and savaging urban areas. But critics said it amounted to giving harsher sentences to African Americans who sold crack and lesser sentences to whites who were selling more of the powder cocaine.

The bill now goes before President Obama for his signature.

The bill also eliminates the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for first-time possession of crack, marking the first time Congress has eliminated a mandatory minimum sentence since the Nixon administration, according to the Associated Press.

“The time is long overdue to fix this law that the U.S. Sentencing Commission agrees disproportionately punishes African-Americans. After many years of hard work on this issue, we are one step closer to eliminating this inequity in federal sentencing,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman, John Coyers Jr. said in a statement.

Attorney General Eric Holder also applauded the bill, saying in a statment:

“I congratulate the House of Representatives on today’s passage of the Fair Sentencing Act. The bill greatly reduces the unwarranted disparity in sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses, and will go a long way toward ensuring that our sentencing laws are tough, consistent, and fair.”

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