CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Crack vs. Coke: Commission Considers Discrepancy in Sentences

From U.S. sentencing guidelines treat 1 gram of crack the same as 100 grams of powder cocaine. So crack users can get much longer prison sentences than powder users. For more than 10 years, that disparity has been the subject of heated debate. The U.S. Sentencing Commission is considering the 20-year-old law in public hearings.

When cocaine comes into the United States, it crosses the border in powder form. The powder travels from a smuggler to a wholesaler to a dealer, divided from kilograms into ounces, and then into grams. Then a dealer puts the powder into a microwave oven with other ingredients, and creates rocks of crack cocaine.

Attorney David Debold, who spoke on behalf of defense lawyers, told the sentencing commission that simple conversion has an enormous impact on the prison sentence for the guy caught holding the bag.

"Should the guidelines recommend such disparate treatment of two defendants," Debold says, "one who handles the drug in powder form, and the other one who handles it later in rock form?"

Listen. . . [Mark Godsey]

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