7.28.2010

Drug Relief

The House voted today to narrow the gap between punishments for possessing crack cocaine vs powder cocaine. Obama is expected to sign it once it hits his desk in the next week or two.

The war on drugs should have been called the war on black men given the devastating effect on the Black community since the laws were enacted more than two decades
ago. Congress, led by President Reagan enacted the unfair legislation based on the lies that crack or rock cocaine was more addictive than powder cocaine.

This lie was coupled with another lie stating that those hooked on crack were more violent. There was no science backing up these beliefs, just raw emotion and bigotry, some
of which continues percolating today on Capital Hill.

Crack was cheaper, became a street drug. Powder remained the drug of choice for the upwardly mobile, primarily white community. But instead of busting them...they chose
to bust us....

Get busted with crack and you were sent to jail and the key to the cell was thrown away. Get busted with powder, you ended up with probation and community service and sent
home to write a book, once you got out celebrity rehab.

According to the United States Sentencing Commission, in 2008 80% of all offenders locked up, were Black. Just 10% were white. Powder cocaine offenders were 52%
Hispanic, 30% Black and 16% white. In 2010, those statistics have not changed much. Blacks and Hispanics are still being locked up disproportionately.

However, when the drug of choice was crack those convicted spent an average of 116 months in jail vs 91 months for powder cocaine users.

Despite knowing that there is no difference, essentially between powder and rock except for who can afford to buy it, Congress refused to totally do away with the disparities in sentencing. They narrowed the gap down from 100-1 to 18-1, meaning rock is going to draw a stiffer sentence...just not as bad as before.  Also means powder users will walk from jump, straight to celebrity rehab. 

Separate and unequal prevails...still...

The new bill also is not retroactive, so that those folks who got screwed and jailed are still screwed and will remain in jail. Those folks are primarily Black and Hispanic
nonviolent possession cases.

The big users and dealers continue to go free.

It is a step forward, one that President Obama could expand upon, by issuing a blanket pardon for those small time fish who got caught up, after he signs the bill into law sometime in the next couple of weeks.

But I'm not gonna hold my breath for that one.
However, I am grateful for the progress that was made today. 

Thank you, President Obama.
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