Federal laws have been in place to control the use and sale of cocaine for many years. However, as cocaine continues to be a problem nationwide, the laws must regularly be updated and adapted to continually improve the system and seek to better protect the population.
A United States senator, Dick Durbin, has fought to repeal cocaine-related laws that he felt were punishing African Americans more often than white offenders. The discrepancies he pointed out were the difference between penalties for crack cocaine possession and powder cocaine possession. Because of Durbin’s efforts, the laws were changed in 2010, changing the punishment for crack cocaine possession.
The old federal laws, of 1986, defined the 100:1 ratio. The 100:1 ratio stated that an individual found in possession of 5g of cocaine would be punished by the same mandatory sentencing as someone found selling 500g.
Another change involved the 1995 statement, by the Department of Justice, discussing their view that crack cocaine traffickers need to be threatened with greater penalties than powder cocaine traffickers, due to the way the two different drugs are marketed and ingested. They believe that crack cocaine poses a greater threat to the public.
The new Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 was signed into law by President Obama on August 3rd of that year. The 100:1 ratio was changed to 18:1. The old mandatory 5-year minimum federal sentence for possession of a first-time offender was eliminated. The 5-year minimum was rarely used by the states anyway, except by prosecutors who involved the federal courts in a case, hoping for a higher penalty for a first-time offender.
Laws along federal and state levels will continue to adapt as more knowledge and experience in dealing with cocaine allows greater levels of understanding. However, the war with cocaine will continue on until the foreseeable future, as no law seems to be able to eliminate cocaine itself.