The law responsible for the 100-to-1 disparity between crack and powder cocaine arrests may be history, after congress voted to reduce the penalties enforced under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 on Wednesday afternoon. The statute, which was approved by then president Ronald Reagan, charged anyone possessing five grams of crack cocaine with a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. Conversely, offenders had to be in possession of at least one kilogram of heroin or 500 grams of powdered cocaine to be charged with the same mandatory sentence of five years in prison.
Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) estimated that the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine contributed to the imprisonment of African Americans at six times the rate of whites in the United States.
“There are so many people locked up doing 10-15 years for doing non-violent crimes behind those laws,” Saigon told HipHopDX, when speaking on mandatory minimum sentencing last year. “This is for selling like $30 of crack cocaine. Those are some of the worst laws to ever fucking hit the black community.”
Russell Simmons, Jim Jones and others have spoken out against mandatory minimum sentencing, which also includes New York’s currently active Rockerfeller Laws. Pending President Obama’s approval, Wednesday’s proposed new law will change the threshold to crack cocaine to 28 grams; the level for powdered cocaine will not change.