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Law Proposed to Level Drug Penalties

<i> Associated Press</i>

Federal penalties for selling powdered cocaine would be stiffened to match crack cocaine sentences under legislation proposed Monday in the Senate.

“It makes no sense that people who sell powder cocaine spend less time in prison than people who sell crack cocaine,” said Sen. John B. Breaux (D-La.), who is sponsoring the bill with Sen. Hank Brown (R-Colo.).

“The damage caused by these criminal acts are the same. Lives are lost, families are destroyed, careers are ruined and our nation itself is seriously threatened,” said Breaux.

Crack cocaine is made by cooking powdered cocaine and is often sold in small inexpensive rocks for smoking, making it more accessible to poor people, many of them young blacks.

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The U.S. Sentencing Commission recently recommended that the mandatory minimum sentence of five years for possessing five grams of crack cocaine be eased because no such penalty exists for the powdered substance.

Congress voted against reducing the sentence and President Clinton agreed, despite efforts from many House members, led by the Congressional Black Caucus, who argued that blacks were disproportionately affected by the stiffer sentencing for crack cocaine sales.


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