Congress addressed a historic wrong on Wednesday afternoon, replacing it instead with a slightly lesser wrong, when the House voted to reduce the disparity in the sentencing of people caught with crack cocaine versus powder cocaine.
To be charged with a felony, crack users needed to possess only 5 grams of the drug. To be hit with the same charge, powder cocaine users needed to be caught with 500 grams. This 100-to-1 disparity has frequently been cited by drug war opponents as exhibit A to buttress their claim that drug laws are racist.
Pending President Obama’s signature, the new law will reduce that disparity to 18-to-1. The threshold for crack cocaine in the new law will be 28 grams; the powder level remains the same.