The EQUAL Act will “finally and fully eliminate the racially unjust federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses, one of the worst vestiges of the failed War on Drugs,” Black Starr reported. In September, EQUAL was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 361-66, with support coming from both the Freedom Caucus on the right and the Progressive Caucus on the left. In the Senate, where Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) proposed the measure, EQUAL presently has seven Republican cosponsors and five Democratic co-sponsors.
What is the Equal Act though?
This bill eliminates the federal sentencing disparity between drug offenses involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine.
Currently, different threshold quantities of crack cocaine and powder cocaine (e.g., 28 grams of crack cocaine and 500 grams of powder cocaine) trigger the same statutory criminal penalties.
This bill eliminates the lower quantity thresholds for crack cocaine offenses. Under the bill, the same threshold quantities of crack cocaine and powder cocaine trigger the same statutory criminal penalties.
The change applies to future cases and cases pending on the date of enactment. With respect to past cases, the bill authorizes a sentencing court to impose a reduced sentence on a defendant who was convicted or sentenced for a specified crack cocaine offense before this bill’s enactment. A defendant does not have to be present at the sentence reduction hearing. Finally, the bill prohibits the reduction of a sentence that was previously reduced.