Unequal Time

  • Share
  • Read Later
WASHINGTON, D.C.: The penalty for crack possession will remain markedly more severe then that for holding an equal amount of cocaine after the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to the law. According to current federal guidelines, it takes 100 times more cocaine powder than crack to draw the same 10-year minimum sentence for drug dealing. Because crack is more prevalent in poor, predominantly black inner-city areas, an appeal by a consortium of attorneys (including Johnnie Cochran) argued that the law unfairly targets blacks, while letting suburban whites--the primary consumers of powder cocaine off with a lesser sentence for carrying the same amount of the drug. The case involved a black man, Duane Edwards, who was arrested in the District of Columbia in 1995 for selling an undercover agent 126.6 grams of crack for $3,400. In rejecting Edwards' argument last December, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that Congress was trying to purposely discriminate in setting greater penalties for possession of crack. Edwards' hope of securing a less severe sentence may eventually be realized: The U.S. Sentencing Commission is pressing for legislation to equalize the sentences for both kinds of cocaine.