Fair Sentencing Act Retroactive: federal crack cocaine sentences reduced

Published On: 2nd November 2011


The rise of crack cocaine use in the 1980s gave rise to the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act which imposed significantly harsher federal penalties for crack cocaine in comparison the powder form. The 100:1 federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses implemented by this legislation has routinely come under attack for being reactionary legislation to the crack epidemic of the 80s, and unjustly targeting urban minorities. Proponents of the 1986 Act stated that crack cocaine is more addictive than powder cocaine warranting the increased penalty. However, a study in 1997 found that crack cocaine is no more addictive than powder cocaine.1

In 2010, the Fair Sentencing Act was passed by Congress. This Act reduces the federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine from the former 100:1 ratio to a 18:1 ratio. In addition, the 2010 Act did away with the five-year mandatory minimum that formerly attached to first-time crack cocaine offenders. The Act also increased the amount of the mixture containing cocaine base that would trigger the mandatory minimum sentence.

In response to enacting the Fair Sentencing Act, in 2011, the United States Sentencing Commission voted to make the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive in its application. What this means is that federal inmates currently serving a sentence under the former sentencing guidelines will have their sentences reduced to comply with the 18:1 sentencing ratio implemented by the Fair Sentencing Act.

If you are accused of a controlled substance crime, whether in state or federal courts, contact the Law Offices of Coley Grostyan now at (612) 747-2254 for a free initial consultation with an experienced Minnesota drug lawyer.

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1Reinarman, Craig; Waldorf, Dan; Murphy, Sheigla B.; Levine, Harry G. (1997). “The Contingent Call of the Pipe: Bingeing and Addiction Among Heavy Cocaine Smokers”. In Reinarman, Craig; Levine, Harry G.. Crack in America: Demon Drugs and Social Justice. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.