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By Jack King
NACDL News columns.
On May 1, the Sentencing Commission sent Congress its 2007 amendments to
the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. The amendment to the cocaine base
(“crack”) guideline could bring some small measure of fairness back into
drug sentences, and NACDL supports the new guideline as a sensible and
progressive first step toward ending the unfair disparity in cocaine
Federal drug sentences for possession and sale are based on the weight
of the controlled substance. For two decades, the federal sentencing
guidelines have treated possession of one gram of cocaine base as the
equivalent of 100 grams of powder cocaine. According to the Sentencing
Commission, the proposed amendment will bring the federal sentencing
guideline more closely into line with the mandatory minimum penalties
set by Congress for possession of crack cocaine.
Roughly, the statutory mandatory minimums for possession effectively
would become the top of the guidelines ranges. For example, under the
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