Cocaine Sentencing Disparity Bill Clears Senate Committee

A bill that makes penalties for possession of crack and powdered cocaine somewhat more equitable was easily approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is headed for a vote in the full Senate, the New York Times reported March 11.

The panel voted unanimously to advance a bill that would require mandatory prison time for anyone found in possession of 28 grams of crack. Currently, mandatory penalties are triggered by possession of 5 grams of crack, comparable to possessing 500 grams of powdered cocaine.

“This solution is far from perfect, but it offers an opportunity to get this done and make an important and bipartisan change in this policy this year, one that will move us closer to achieving fairness in our sentencing laws,” said committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

The U.S. House of Representatives last year passed a bill that would equalize penalties for crack and powdered cocaine.

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