Paring Penalties for Crack

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Instituted in 1986, the 100-to-1 disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentencing was meant to target crime, not color. But with crack-related violence on the wane, President Clinton agreed Tuesday to ease off on a policy many activists call racist because it imposes far heavier penalties on crack users, who are more likely to be black. Under the plan put forth by Attorney General Janet Reno and drug czar Barry McCaffrey, the disparity will be reduced to 10-to-1: five years would be the mandatory sentence for selling 25 grams of crack and 250 grams of powder cocaine. The revision is now headed for Congress, where Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Maxine Waters has already rejected the new sentence ratio, saying that the change doesn't go far enough and snipping that the White House had yet to even consult her. White House spokesman Mike McCurry sounded like he already missed the old policy. "Parity does not reflect the fact that these are two different drugs, associated with two different types of social behavior," McCurry said. "Crack cocaine is associated with much more violent, much more dangerous, much more anti-social behavior."