House Eases Crack-Cocaine Sentences
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House Eases Crack-Cocaine Sentences
Posted by CN Staff on July 29, 2010 at 04:08:39 PT
By Gary Fields
Source: Wall Street Journal
Washington, D.C. -- The House approved a bill Wednesday that lightens federal sentences for crack-cocaine defendants, sending it to President Barack Obama for his signature.After years of false starts and dashed hopes for sentencing advocates, lawmakers approved the legislation on a voice vote. The Senate had passed the bill this spring, and Mr. Obama is expected to sign it soon.
The bill would raise the minimum quantity of crack-cocaine required to trigger a five-year sentence to 28 grams from five grams, potentially shortening prison time for thousands of defendants sentenced each year.The change, sought since the 1990s, addresses a disparity in the punishment for defendants in powder cocaine and crack-cocaine cases. Since the mid-1980s, the minimum quantity of powder cocaine required to trigger a five-year sentence was 500 grams—100 times the threshold for crack.Critics said the rules unfairly targeted African-American communities where crack is more prevalent. In contrast, suburban white users tend to buy powder cocaine.The bill's passage was eased this year in part because the Justice Department for the first time advocated for a softening of the sentences, saying there was no reason for the disparity.The bill's impact on federal sentencing could be substantial. U.S. Sentencing Commission projections show that more than 2,900 crack defendants sentenced each year would get shorter sentences—an average of 27 months less time. The commission, which promulgates the guidelines used to advise judges, also projects that the bill could lead to a net reduction of nearly 4,000 inmates in the federal prison population by 2020.The bill requires the commission to review its guidelines on crack- cocaine offenses and bring them in line with the more lenient proposal."We think it's a victory," said Julie Stewart, of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a Washington, D.C., an advocacy group. "It's not everything we want but that's politics. "Ms. Stewart said her biggest complaint is that the new law won't be retroactive. "We're going back for that," she said.One of the last holdouts has been the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation's largest law enforcement labor group. Executive Director Jim Pasco said Wednesday that members were "disappointed."Mr. Pasco said the FOP's position has long been to close the disparity by lowering the amounts of powder cocaine necessary to trigger the mandatory penalties, not by raising the crack-cocaine levels.Passage of the legislation was marked by bipartisanship not regularly seen on Capitol Hill these days. Kara Gotsch, of the Sentencing Project, another advocacy group, said it has been a long time coming since 2001, when Republican Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Orrin Hatch of Utah introduced a bill to narrow the disparity.This year, the coalition behind the proposal included Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, David Keene of the Conservative Union, and Pat Nolan of Prison Fellowship.Source: Wall Street Journal (US)Author:   Gary FieldsPublished: July 29, 2010Copyright: 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.Contact: wsj.ltrs wsj.comWebsite: Justice Archives
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Comment #8 posted by rchandar on July 30, 2010 at 06:29:19 PT:
New Law
Amen. About time. This is very good news.--rchandar
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Comment #7 posted by Sam Adams on July 29, 2010 at 12:55:10 PT
Storm Crow
wow, the list is becoming huge!!! great job, I've used this more than once and recommended it to others too.Question - Does anyone know the status of Donald Abrams' cannabis/opiate pain relief study? I know it's been completed, just wondering if it's been officially published or if anyone knows when it will be.I know he presented the results at the POT conference in April.
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on July 29, 2010 at 09:48:02 PT
Storm Crow
I have no use for cocaine either but I am glad this law will change the prison sentences a little. 
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Comment #5 posted by Hope on July 29, 2010 at 09:46:21 PT
Well, Jim Pasco, I guess 'Santa Claus' isn't coming this time and you aren't our parent... or friend.
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on July 29, 2010 at 09:34:04 PT
A Question
I thought we are suppose to call the President President not Mr. Republicans weren't for this one little bit. It's the Democrats that are getting it done.
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Comment #3 posted by dongenero on July 29, 2010 at 09:22:28 PT
bi-partisan support - right
It is interesting that he WSJ mention only Republican support. It could be that it is just so unusual for them to support anything since they lost support of the American public.
Then again the WSJ is now owned by Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News, so one can expect a different slant to the former professionalism of WSJ.The bill was actually sponsored by Dick Durbin-D, long time, great Illinois Senator. The Democratic majority leader was also instrumental in keeping the heat on this issue.Here's another article with a bit more info about the passage of the bill, it's support etc. snipped:
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) controls the floor schedule and has been pushing on the issue for several weeks, working "hand in glove," according to one Senate aide, with Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who sponsored the upper chamber's version of the disparity fix. The Senate aide said that Hoyer was late to a bicameral leadership meeting Tuesday night because he was still making calls to nail down support for the legislation.
Story continues belowA key question was whether Republicans would demand a roll call or allow it to pass by a voice vote. Few vulnerable politicians, in an election year, want to vote on anything that could be cast as being soft on crack cocaine. Hoyer worked directly with House Republicans to assuage some of their concerns in an effort to ward off a demand for a recorded vote, which could jeopardize the legislation.A House Republican aide confirmed that Hoyer approached Republicans before the vote but said that the GOP's decision not to demand a roll call had more to do with the bill having the support of conservative stalwarts such as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the Prison Fellowship Ministries and activist Grover Norquist. With a left-right coalition intact, the bill sailed through.In March, the Senate approved the legislation to reduce the disparity to 18-to-1, also on a voice vote.President Obama is expected to sign the legislation, having expressed opposition to disparity in the past.
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Comment #2 posted by Storm Crow on July 29, 2010 at 08:38:02 PT
Though I hate cocaine, and what it can do....
"Mr. Pasco said the FOP's position has long been to close the disparity by lowering the amounts of powder cocaine necessary to trigger the mandatory penalties, not by raising the crack-cocaine levels." That sounds a lot like "job security" talk from the cops! They know they have lost on cannabis, so they frantically are trying to protect their jobs somehow! I expect them to begin screaming for tougher drug (and any other) laws. The police forces have become bloated by the "easy pickin's" that cannabis provided (passive, or ill "offenders", pulling up "dangerous weeds" and all those confiscations of property). And let's not forget them no longer getting to play with all those cool "toys"- assault rifles, choppers, ATVs, the snarling dogs, black uniforms and all! No more new "toys" with the big drop in their budgets! Poor babies!Thank goodness their free ride is about to end! Everyone registered to vote? We need you voting this fall! And somewhat "off topic", my new "Granny's MMJ List- July 2010" is ready! 420 pages of links to MMJ studies and articles! Hope, I KNOW you are eager to see all the "goodies", so I've posted it up a tad early (I usually do it on my birthday, but jumped the gun by a couple days)-
 I know you will enjoy it! I start sending the list out to folks on August 1st! If any of you would like a free copy, drop me an email at i.wantgrannyslist(at) And we will get one out to all of you sometime in August. There are literally 100s of names of people waiting for the new list, and only me and Deb (my "right-hand" gal) sending them out one at a time to protect folk's privacy- it may take us a while to do! But it's definitely worth it! 
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Comment #1 posted by Sam Adams on July 29, 2010 at 08:25:33 PT
WSJ again
Interesting, according to this you would think conservative Republicans are real drug-law reformers! I notice that there is no mention of how much we pay to lock everyone up, or the savings that will result from this reform.Strange, considering this paper is targeted at business executives. Of course that is the keystone of drug-war propaganda, NEVER mention the cost. GOD must be paying for all the jailers and prisons, right? The money just magically appears.
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