It may have taken Missouri two years to follow the federal government’s lead in reducing disparities between crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentences, but lawmakers finally passed the measure this week and it now heads to the governor’s desk, according to the Associated Press.
As things stand, someone accused of possessing 2 grams of crack cocaine will face the same sentence as someone accused of 150 grams of powder cocaine. This accounts for a 75-1 ratio, where crack is penalized at a rate far more severe than powder cocaine.
Under the new law, which is expected to be signed, that ratio will be reduced to 18-1, in line with what the federal government instated under the Fair Sentencing Act. Prior to the Fair Sentencing Act, the feds were operating under a 100-1 ratio.
These tough crack cocaine sentencing laws were passed after flawed science was used to support them, stating that crack was so addictive and dangerous, it had to be handled with a heavier hand. True, crack is a dangerous drug, but certainly not 100 or even 75 more dangerous than the highly addictive powder cocaine.
The crack sentencing laws served to send a multitude of minority males to prison for terms commonly only seen for violent offenses. These laws can be directly blamed for much of the disproportionate numbers of black men in prison.
Crack did decimate many urban neighborhoods. But, it wasn’t just because this drug was more addictive than others and it’s not something a years-long prison sentence could correct.
Missouri is now on track to at least reduce the disparity, though not eliminate it. Though the Fair Sentencing Act made things fairer, it certainly didn’t level the playing field.
Following the passage of the federal act, groups like the Sentencing Project pushed states to follow suit, saying the laws were unfair and that the prison terms that resulted from the unequal sentences weren’t only ineffective, but costly.
Drug laws in Missouri are already severe, without steep disparities. Possession of cocaine (powder) is classified as a felony charge and can carry up to 7 years in prison. While judges rarely sentence people to this maximum sentence for possession, it is possible.
When you are accused of a drug charge, whether it’s powder cocaine or crack cocaine, you need someone on your side advocating for your best interests. Contact our attorneys today to discuss your case and how we might be able to help.