Rep. Rangel Seeks End to Cocaine Sentencing Disparities 3/19/99

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(reprinted from the Drug Policy Foundation's Network News,

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) introduced H.R. 939, the "Crack Cocaine Equitable Sentencing Act of 1999" on March 2, along with 25 Democratic cosponsors. Rangel introduced a similar bill in 1997, but did not get a hearing in the Republican-controlled Congress.

The bill would eliminate the distinction between powder cocaine and crack cocaine, treating both substances equally under federal law. Right now, possession of five grams of crack cocaine carries a five-year mandatory minimum sentence, while 500 grams of powder cocaine receives the same sentence. Possession of 50 grams of crack cocaine results in a 10-year mandatory minimum, but it takes five kilograms of powder cocaine to receive a comparable sentence. This difference in penalties is commonly referred
to as the "100-to-1 sentencing disparity," and it has disproportionately impacted African-American defendants who are often targeted by drug law enforcement.

Rep. Rangel's bill is not the first attempt to equalize crack and powder cocaine sentences. In April 1995, the US Sentencing Commission recommended that the 100-to-1 ratio be abandoned in favor of equal penalties for both forms of cocaine. On October 30, 1995, Congress passed, and the President signed, a law (PL 104-38) overturning that decision, which resulted in the largest prison riots in the history of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Learn more about mandatory minimum sentencing from Families Against Mandatory Minimums,

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Issue #83, 3/19/99 Announcements | Institute of Medicine Report Confirms Marijuana's Medicinal Value | HEA Reform Bill Introduced in Congress | Rep. Rangel Seeks End to Cocaine Sentencing Disparities | Canada: Husband of Medical Marijuana User Arrested as Government Announces Clinical Trials, Possible Medical Exemption | Minnesota Hemp Bill Progressing | DPF Grant Deadline Coming Up | Editorial: IOM Report Leaves Only One Thing Left to Say
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