The Missouri House of Representatives last Thursday approved reducing the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses. The move came as the House approved a larger judiciary bill, which now heads to the Senate.
Under the measure approved by the House, it would take the sale of 28 grams of crack to generate that same mandatory minimum sentence.
"I think it's a matter of fairness," House Speaker Steven Tilley (R-Perryville) explained.
The move to address the disparity gained traction after a Sentencing Project report last year highlighted the extreme nature of the Missouri disparity. "Harsh drug penalties like these are a contributing factor to the exceptionally high rates of incarceration and overcrowding in state prison facilities," the report noted.
While the measure had bipartisan support in the House with only one no vote, the judiciary bill's prospects in the Senate are unclear. The bill deals with a variety of other issues, ranging from fees for trial transcripts to guidelines to licensing foster care providers to making the St. Louis circuit clerk position an appointed one, rather than an elected one.