EQUAL ACT (S.79), a law to equalize crack and powder penalties, will have an easy time getting through the legislature. Hopefully, the MORE act (the act that removes cannabis in the same category as heroin) is next.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-Ny) Co-Sponsor Of Equal Act
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

Last Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) joined on as a co-sponsor of the legislation, though it is unclear whether he intends to put the legislation to a vote on the Senate floor.

The bill cleared the House of Representatives by a vote of 361-66 in September, and President Joe Biden, who ran on a platform of criminal justice reform, is anticipated to approve it once it hits his desk.

Equal Act Crack Cocaine Co-Sponsor Sen. Richard Burr (R-Nc)

Ten Senate Republicans, including Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), who joined the list of co-sponsors last week, have signed on to the legislation, which would erase the gap in federal punishment between narcotics charges using crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

This sets the way for a likely passage in the Senate’s evenly divided chamber, where 60 votes are required to pass the vast majority of legislation.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), one of the 10 Republican sponsors of the EQUAL Act, stated that it now “looks like you’d get to 60, really.” “This is the Democrats’ prerogative, it’d be nice if they would bring it to the floor.”

U.S. Sentencing Commission on the topic of Crack Cocaine statistics

U.s. Sentencing Comission

According to the bill, which was principally sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), crack cocaine offenses will now be punished at the same levels as powder cocaine.

A study conducted by the Sentencing Commission in 2020 discovered that 77% of crack cocaine trafficking defendants were black, with only 6% being white. Nonetheless, according to the 2020 poll, whites are more likely than any other demographic to have used cocaine at some point in their lives. Crack cocaine is punished 18 times more harshly than powder cocaine, which means that anyone caught with 28 grams of crack cocaine will be sentenced to the same five-year mandatory jail term as someone caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine under current law.

Although the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced the sentencing discrepancy between crack and powder cocaine from a 100-to-1 ratio to an 18-to-1 ratio, activists continue to fight for further reductions in the sentencing imbalance.

Joe Manchin (D-Wv) Equal Act Crack Cocaine Act
Joe Manchin (D-WV)

EQUAL is expected to receive a vote in the Senate before the midterm elections, thanks to the support of Schumer and the 10 Republican senators. Because of the Republican backing, the plan has a good chance of surviving a filibuster if all 50 Senate Democrats band together to support it. Senate Democratic Leader Joe Manchin (D-WV), who has been a trailblazer thus far in this session, joined the bill’s bipartisan coalition last week.

According to Doug Berman, an Ohio State University law professor who blogs on sentencing law and policy, the EQUAL Act “may have a ready path to passage” at this point in history.

It is possible that the EQUAL Act will be passed, which would not only level federal punishments for future crack charges, but also reduce prison time for people who are already serving prison sentences.

According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which has conducted an analysis of the bill’s impact, approximately 7,600 prisoners – or roughly 5 percent of the federal prison population – would see their sentences reduced under the legislation. In the vast majority of cases, the aggregate length of crack prison sentences would be reduced by at least one-third.

A marijuana reform newsletter published last week stated that a bill to federally legalize marijuana may be brought up for a vote on the House floor again next week.

However, the newsletter’s sources stated that “nothing is set in stone,” despite recent calls to bring the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act back to the floor this month.

The MORE Act has been approved by the whole chamber twice before, and rumors of a floor vote have circulated after congressional Democrats attended a closed-door session at a party retreat, which included a panel focused on the reform legislation, in which the MORE Act was discussed.

It was approved by the House Judiciary Committee in September of last year, and it would remove cannabis from the list of prohibited narcotics.

Source:

Bloomberg, GOP Support Clears Senate Path for Bill on Cocaine Sentencing (March 23, 2022)

Washington Times, Schumer joins bipartisan push to cut federal prison time for nearly 7,800 crack cocaine traffickers (March 22, 2022)

Sentencing Law and Policy, Is Congress finally on the verge of equalizing crack and powder cocaine sentences? (March 23, 2022)

Marijuana Moment, Federal Marijuana Legalization Bill May Receive House Floor Vote Next Week, Sources Say (March 23, 2022)

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