The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that would take a significant step toward reducing the disparity between sentences for powder cocaine and crack cocaine, reports MainJustice.com. With one dissent, the panel yesterday voted to reduce the 100-to-1 ratio between crack and powder cocaine penalties to 18-to-1. As originally introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the bill would have established the same sentencing guidelines for powder cocaine and crack offenses.
The 24-year-old sentencing law gives the same five-year mandatory minimum sentence for the possession of five grams of crack cocaine as it does for the possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine. Democrats have said the law tends to disproportionately target blacks, because crack is typically used in poorer urban communities. “I know this agreement is not everything we would like. Frankly, it is not everything that I would like either,” Durbin said. “But this is a historic day. The Senate Judiciary Committee has never reported a bill to reduce this crack-powder disparity.” The House Judiciary Committee approved a version of the legislation in July that would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for cocaine offenses.