07.29.09 | House Judiciary Committee Passes Cocaine Equalization Bill
WASHINGTON, DC – Today's significant House Judiciary Committee vote on H.R. 3245, the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009, will address a twenty year injustice in federal sentencing law. The bill is sponsored by Congressman Robert C. "Bobby" Scott and 32 other members. The bill equalizes the penalties for crack and powder cocaine at the current powder cocaine penalty level. Under current law, those convicted of possessing 5 grams of crack receive the same 5-year mandatory minimum sentence as those convicted of selling 500 grams of powder cocaine; this is referred to as the "100-1 disparity". H.R. 3245 eliminates the disparity.
"I am very pleased to see this bill pass out of the Judiciary Committee. It will correct a long-standing injustice in our federal criminal justice system. Many have worked hard to get us to this point, including John Conyers, Jr., Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Maxine Waters, Mel Watt, Sheila Jackson-Lee and Charles Rangel, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Many individuals representing national, state and local organizations have also worked hard on this issue, especially Nkechi Taifa of the Open Society Institute, Julie Stewart, Mary Price and Jennifer Stitt of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, Bruce Nicholson of the American Bar Association, Hilary Shelton of the NAACP Washington Bureau, Wade Henderson of the Leadership Council for Civil Rights and Jasmine Tyler of the Drug Policy Alliance to name a few", noted Congressman Scott.
The bill eliminates the "100 to 1" disparity by repealing separate references to crack cocaine in the criminal code.
Congressman Scott stated that "this legislation will free judges from the frustration of having to sentence crack offenders to a grotesquely unfair sentence for a minor amount of crack cocaine."
H.R. 3245 passed out of the Judiciary Committee by a 16-9 vote. The bill now awaits action in the full House. A bill is also being developed in the Senate.