Equal and fair treatment under the law is a sacred tenant in the United States. This legislation creates a more equal system by establishing consistent punishments for abusing the same chemical substance, regardless of physical form. That is why a coalition of 28 organizations wrote a letter supporting this legislation.
In 1986, Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which enhanced penalties for drug crimes. This law included separate provisions for cocaine in the powdered form and cocaine in the crack form. Five grams of crack cocaine had the same mandatory minimum sentence as 500 grams of powder cocaine. A ratio of 100:1.
This sentencing ratio was narrowed to about 18:1 with the bipartisan Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. However, any such disparity for possessing a chemically identical substance serves no real-world purpose. The EQUAL Act would eliminate any disparity in the punishment between powdered and crack cocaine.
The enhanced punishments for crack cocaine were designed to target “kingpins” and “middle level dealers,” however research conducted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that it primarily impacted low level dealers. Additionally, research has shown that these different mandatory minimums for crack cocaine has resulted in 65% higher sentences for African Americans and Hispanic Americans.
The EQUAL Act also provides the opportunity for pending and past cases to apply for a reduced sentence based off this new change by Congress.
You can learn more about the bill HERE.