Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity

I recently filed a piece for KGOU in Norman, Oklahoma, regarding the disparity in sentencing between the crack and powder forms of cocaine. Under current federal law, possession of five grams of crack cocaine is punishable by a mandatory five year sentence. Yet it would take 100 times that amount in powder cocaine to receive the same sentence.

To listen to an MP3 of the story, click here.

From KGOU’s website:

Let’s say you’re an African American, you live in Oklahoma, and you’re caught possessing five grams of crack cocaine. According to mandatory sentencing guidelines, you’d receive a ten year prison sentence, even if it was your first offense. On the other hand, if you’re white, affluent and you’re charged with possessing powder cocaine – which is chemically identical to crack, albeit more concentrated — you’d need to have nearly six times as much to receive a similar sentence. The Oklahoma Sentencing Commission has called for the elimination of the disparity between the sentences, and Senators Joe Biden (D-DE) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have teamed up to reduce the disparity on the federal level. Charles Davis reports from Capitol Hill.

Guests include former State Senator and Sentencing Commission member Ged Wright, Ethan Nadelman of the sentencing reform group the Drug Policy Alliance, Senator Tom Coburn and State Senator and Sentencing Commission Chair Richard Lerblance.


About Charles Davis

A writer and producer with whose work has aired on television and radio and been published by outlets such as Al Jazeera, The Intercept, The Nation and The New Republic.
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