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Missouri House Approves Crack Cocaine Sentencing Reform

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.

Some cocaine is still more equal than other under a Missouri bill, but there is less of a sentencing disparity. (wikimedia.org)
The disparity in Missouri's crack sentencing law, adopted in 1989 in the midst of drug war hysteria, is the most extreme in the nation. Under the law, a person convicted of selling 2.5 grams of crack cocaine earns the same mandatory minimum 10-year prison sentence as someone selling 425 grams of powder cocaine.

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.

Columbia, MO
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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