Today, the House passed legislation reducing the two-decades-old sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses. The Senate passed an identical bill in March and the legislation is now heading to President Obama, who supports the reform effort.
“This is a historic day, with House Republicans and Democrats in agreement that U.S. drug laws are too harsh and must be reformed,” said Jasmine L. Tyler, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The tide is clearly turning against the failed war on drugs.”
Before the changes, a person with just five grams of crack received a mandatory sentence of five years in prison. That same person would have to possess 500 grams of powder cocaine to earn the same punishment. This discrepancy, known as the 100-to-1 ratio, was enacted in the late 1980s and was based on myths about crack cocaine being more dangerous than powder. Scientific evidence, including a major study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, has proven that crack and powder cocaine have identical physiological and psychoactive effects on the human body.