Another Crack-Powder Cocaine Debate Ahead?


The crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity may be revisited by Congress when lawmakers consider the recent Supreme Court ruling that made federal sentencing guidelines advisory, says Paul Rosenzweig of the Heritage Foundation. Congress will be “watching the judiciary like hawks” to see if judges issue lower sentences than lawmakers want, Rosenzweig told the National Committee on Community Corrections in a discussion on the future of sentencing guidelines. Another panelist, Washington, D.C., lawyer Gregory Poe, an adviser to the the U.S. Sentencing Commission, agreed that “Congress will have a very unhappy response” if federal judges divert far from the now-advisory guidelines.

In 1986, Congress set the same penalty for selling a small amount of crack cocaine as the penalty for selling one hundred times the amount of power cocaine. The 100-1 ratio has been cited as racially discriminatory because more minorities deal in crack. Efforts to change the have have failed over the last two decades as some legislators have feared being seen as soft on crime.


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