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 crack/powder cocaine disparity 
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Reading the article about Race and Incarceration reminded me of a discussion I had in another class about cocaine. I wanted to get the right info, so I googled it and here is what I found:
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What is the crack/powder cocaine disparity?
Pharmacologically the same drug, crack and powder cocaine are treated very differently within the walls of our justice system. Current policy generates a 100 to 1 penalty ratio for crack-related offenses. For instance, possession of only 5 grams of crack-cocaine yields a 5 year mandatory minimum sentence, however it takes 500 grams of powder cocaine to prompt the same sentence. Moreover, crack-cocaine is the only drug for which the first offense of simple possession can trigger a federal mandatory minimum sentence. Yet "simple possession of any quantity of any other substance by a first time offender - including powder cocaine - is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a maximum of one year in prison." (21 U.S.C. 844) i

What are the negative consequences associated with the crack/powder disparity?
The crack/powder disparity fuels drug war racial injustice. A 1007 report published by the U.S. Sentencing Commission notes that nearly 90 percent of the offenders convicted in federal court for crack-cocaine distribution are African-American while the majority of crack-cocaine users are white. The report concludes that "sentences appear to be harsher and more severe for racial minorities than others as a result of this law. The current penalty structure results in a perception of unfairness and inconsistency." ii

~http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/1/12/144240/366

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Elizabeth McPhail Dawson


Thu Mar 01, 2007 1:04 am
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That is really interesting, I did not know that there were differences in the sentences for these forms of cocaine. That infuriates me that we have this built into our system of law. I wonder if there are any other drugs that do the same thing. I will have to look and see if I can find anything.

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Thu Mar 01, 2007 10:39 am
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This is awful; I really cannot see another reason besides a form of racial suppression, as to why this law exists. This really goes along with the online article we read today on the striking numbers of minorities in prison.

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Robert Chase Glenn


Thu Mar 01, 2007 4:14 pm
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Wow, I had no idea either....There are just so many things that happen in our justice system that aren't "Just." It makes me so mad that that law exists. I probably can't even imagine some of the other laws that are built into our system like that. I think it's important to keep ourselves aware of things like this that may be happening. If nobody aware, no changes can be made.


Thu Mar 01, 2007 10:15 pm
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This injustice reminds me other laws that have been skewed to outright infringe on the rights of others. One in particular was on the books in most of the south during the reconstruction period where black men and women could not be charged for adultery because it was in there "inherent nature." What does this say about how the morals of African Americans where viewed by the white leaders?


Sun Mar 04, 2007 5:48 pm
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This is of course another institutionalized form of hypocrasy and racism that makes it very difficult to believe in the American justice system. The sentancing disparities directly corelate with the pricing and market disparities between these two drugs. Some of us might remember Whitney Houston's famous quote to Barbara Walters, "Let's get this straight; I don't do crack. Crack is cheap." Of course the implication is that her rich lifestyle was more suited for cocaine abuse.

Cocaine is the white-collarred businessmans' drug, or at least this is the way that it is percieved, and they certainly have better access to decent legal representation, hence lower sentances. This is also a great opportunity to talk about mandatory minimum sentencing. Any time that the final judgement in a criminal matter is taken out of the hands of the elected judges, a person's life is subjected to a prison sentence of definite length without any consideration of mitigating circumstances; and these people will often have children, our future students, have to suffer as well. This is also not to mention that our nation's drug policies make criminals out of what should be dealt with as people with a treatable health problem.


Mon Mar 05, 2007 6:16 pm
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I've had a few classes that have brought this issue up. It is not correct. A drug is a drug matter what form or amount. I think all drugs should be dealt with on the same criteria and sentences. Drugs are illegal and I dont think that there should be differences between them. I do understand that there are differences between the drugs but they are all considered illegal and I think in the justice system they should be treated the same.

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Alyse A. Bowden


Mon Mar 05, 2007 8:21 pm
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Alyse,

I'm going to have to respectfully disagree about your opinion that each illegally scheduled drug should be treated equally in our legal system. Our current system of drug classification, or scheduling, groups drugs into categories of legality, by, for example, distinguishing between pharmacutical and street drugs. This is important, if we are going to criminalize the use of street drugs, as I'm sure you agree.

The problem is in our ability to recognize key differences between the potential effects and dangers of illegal drugs. I doubt that even the most hard-lined drug war advocate would agree that marijuana and heroin are equally dangerous, addictive, and detrimental to society, yet pot and smack are both classified as schedule I drugs, the highest level of illegality. Reefer is considered more dangerous than raw opium, according to the DEA, which classifies opium as Schedule II! This is a drug whose addictive properties has caused decades of warfare in Asia and the middle east!

If we are going to teach our children that there are no significant differences between pot and heroin, then what happens when a teenager tries pot for the first time and finds it to be rather harmless? This is irresponsible, dishonest, and hypocritical, considering that alcohol is far more dangerous and addictive than many of our schedule I drugs.

I would agree with you that all drugs should be treated equally, if this meant decriminalization of all narcotics and our increased focus on the treatment of addiction as a health problem rather than a cyclical criminal problem.

I should add that this post was typed with my one functioning left hand, which should indicate how passionately I believe in the need for this type of drug reform!


Mon Mar 05, 2007 9:34 pm
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This was brought up in class once again yesterday, and I found it very interesting to listen to certain people's responses. In a way, I do see it as racial discrimination because what other reason is there for having such a disparity between sentences? But, it was brought up in class that sometimes the reasons for longer sentences for certain drugs is because of the violence that is associated with them. I found this to be a very interesting point, but at the same time, is that still racial discrimination? Are we saying that because someone can afford powder cocaine that they are less prone to violence? They are still drug users who are exposing their bodies to these substances and who knows what they would go through to get what they need or what they would do once on the substance. I do not have a firm opinion on the subject, but I did think that violence added an extra thought to the subject.

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Sara G Marshall


Wed Mar 21, 2007 5:36 pm
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Yes, you are absolutely right. Cocaine users/dealers are just as prone to violence as anyone willing to break the law for a profit or a high. One need only look at the drug violence associated with the Columbian drug trade and the cartels that have been organized to move the product into our country and onto our streets - this is all inseperably tied to cocaine, not crack. Unfortunately, cocaine usage is still considered glamorous today, and therefore people equate it with power and money - and power and money are the two things that keep our drug laws so horribly screwed up.


Wed Mar 21, 2007 6:15 pm
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I think the discussion we had in class the other day is very interesting. I just had to do a culture report for my diversity class on African Americans. I actually looked at statistics like this one that racially profiles people that seem more prone to violence and drug usage. It was astounding to see how the crimes commited by African Americans are more often reported that by Caucasians. I think that things like this and the cocaine problem are crazy and that everyone should be held accountable for their own actions no matter what race or social standing you are.

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Rachel Tyler


Wed Mar 21, 2007 6:26 pm
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I think that sometimes it’s a little too easy to assume that something that we don’t understand entirely is pure racial prejudice or something similar. I would never suggest that there isn’t an element of racial bias that goes into the exacting of these laws, but surely there is more than blatant racism. I know it’s easy to hate the man and all, but sometimes we have to sit back and realize that situations are far more complex than a league of white men messing with people. Several years ago I joined the non-profit organization “The Guardian Angelsâ€

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Matthew Pickard


Wed Apr 18, 2007 9:10 pm
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