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US Supreme Court signals more lenient crack sentences

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The US Supreme Court has made a ruling giving judges greater leeway in handing down sentences, allowing courts to address the disparity in punishments for crack and powder cocaine trafficking.

The high court sided with a judge who gave the same sentence for drug traffickers in either form of cocaine, despite a 1986 federal law that calls for a 100:1 ratio, making the sale of one gram of crack cocaine as serious an offence as 100 grams of powder cocaine.

Crack cocaine is a less pure form of cocaine predominantly used and sold in poor, black neighbourhoods, while powder cocaine is the choice of more upscale customers.

The 100:1 ratio has put more African-Americans behind bars than whites for essentially the same offences.

The US Sentencing Commission has for more than 10 years recommended the 100:1 ratio guidelines be dropped to eliminate the sentencing disparity deemed unfair and even racist.

US law makers, however, have been reluctant to reduce mandatory sentencing for drug traffickers lest they be seen as sending the wrong political message.

In 2004, a federal judge in Virginia called the sentencing disparity "ridiculous" and sentenced Derrick Kimbrough, for possession of 56 grams of crack and 921 grams of powder cocaine, to 15 years in prison for both offences, when for crack alone he should have received a minimum of 19 years.

The judge's sentence was overturned on appeal, and on Monday by a 7-2 vote the Supreme Court ruled that federal sentencing guidelines were "advisory" and that the growing number of judges refusing to apply the 100:1 ratio have the authority to do so.


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what have they overlooked the mandatory sentencing for MJ?...that would cut the prison bill down more than crack.

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