The U.S. Senate recently passed a bill that would make sentences for crack cocaine crimes more in line with sentences for similar powder cocaine crimes in federal courts. As it stands now, defendants can be sentenced much more harshly for crack cocaine crimes as opposed to equivalent powder cocaine crimes. In other words, a person can have a relatively small amount of crack cocaine and receive a much higher prison sentence than a person who has an equal or even lesser amount of powder cocaine. The unfairness of this system in federal courts has been discussed for years, and the Obama administration has given a clear indication of its intent to move towards equalizing the two crimes or at least pulling sentences closer together.
The bill that passed in the Senate does not go as far as making crack cocaine and powder cocaine crimes equal in terms of penalties, but it does reduce the disparity when a person is sentenced for crack cocaine crimes versus powder cocaine crimes. The bill also eliminates minimum mandatory sentences for people charged with simple possession of crack cocaine.
The bill making crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentences more similar, though not equal, is not yet the law. The bill still has to go through the normal legislative process. However, it is likely that at some point in the future, crack cocaine sentences and powder cocaine sentences will get in the same ballpark. But until that happens, the sentences for crack cocaine cases are much more serious than sentences for powder cocaine cases in federal courts.