cocaine - David Levenson 21A.344 The Cocaine Sentencing...

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David Levenson 21A.344 May 18, 2006 The Cocaine Sentencing Disparity There is a gross injustice occurring in the United States that needs to be addressed. Persons taking part in what is essentially the same illegal act of drug use are being sentenced vastly differently. There is a large disparity in the mandatory minimum criminal sentencing for the trafficking and possession of crack cocaine and powder cocaine. In 1986 and 1988 two federal sentencing laws were passed that established a 100:1 quantity ratio between the amount of crack cocaine and powder cocaine that would prompt mandatory jail sentences 1 . A person found with 500 grams of powder cocaine will likely receive a 5-year prison sentence. A person found with just 5 grams of crack cocaine will serve the same sentence. This policy is unfair to crack cocaine offenders and must be rewritten. The federal government argues that the addictive nature of crack cocaine and violence associated with its sale are valid justification for the sentencing disparity. These explanations provide no compelling reason to create the enormous difference in mandatory minimum jail sentences for nearly identical drugs. There are also blatant racial undertones in this policy. The large majority of people sentenced for crack cocaine trafficking or possessions are black while the majority of users are, in fact, white 2 . Powder cocaine offenders are much more racially integrated with roughly equal parts white, black and Hispanic. Thus, this policy is creating a racial divide in the number of minorities sent to prison and it is obvious that the sentencing procedures are racially 1 The Sentencing Project. “Crack Cocaine Sentencing Policy: Unjustified and Unreasonable.”, 1. 2 Webb, Gary, “Flawed Sentencing the Main Reason for Race Disparity,” Mercury News , 20 Aug 1996.
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David Levenson 21A.334 May 18, 2006 biased. It is time to equalize the sentencing of users or dealers found with either crack or powdered cocaine, and recognize the severe consequences present with any drug use regardless of who uses what drugs and where they primarily use them. I will show how the differences in crack and powder cocaine are negligible (especially when accounting for the large difference in sentencing), how this policy is racially motivated and why it should be changed to put crack and powdered cocaine dealers and users on the same level under the law. To understand why there is a difference in dealing crack versus powder cocaine under the law we must first understand the differences between crack and powder cocaine. Both crack and powder cocaine are derived from the South American coca plant. The cocaine is extracted from the plant and dried in a paste of cocaine sulfate. Finally, the
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cocaine - David Levenson 21A.344 The Cocaine Sentencing...

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