House votes to eliminate cocaine sentencing disparity - MiamiHerald.com
The House of Representatives passed a historic bill Wednesday that narrows sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine convictions, which civil rights and civil liberties experts say contributed to the disproportionate imprisonment of African-Americans in recent decades.
The Senate passed its version of the bill in March. President Barack Obama, who during the 2008 presidential campaign said the current legal disparity “cannot be justified and should be eliminated,” is expected to sign the legislation.
By voice vote, the House altered a law implemented in 1986 during the early phase of the crack cocaine epidemic. It required anyone convicted of possession of five grams of crack to be sentenced to at least five years in prison.
Many lawmakers and organizations such as the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union complained for nearly a quarter century that the law was unfair because someone convicted of crack possession got the same mandatory sentence as someone convicted of possessing 100 times that amount of powder cocaine, a drug more popular among whites.