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November 2006
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Cocaine Laws

Eric Sterling’s OpEd in the Los Angeles Times yesterday is a must-read.
He talks about the problems of our cocaine sentencing laws with the authority (and the mea culpas) of one who helped write them.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Sentencing Commission — the independent agency that gives sentencing guidelines to federal judges and advises Congress — will hold hearings on this issue. If logic prevails, in the next Congress we may finally see an end to one of the most unjust laws passed in recent memory. And that might correct the biggest mistake of my professional life.

The whole thing is worth reading, but I wanted to highlight the major recommendation for the federal law that he gives:

Congress should do what it tried to do in 1986 — make the Justice Department focus exclusively on high-level cases because state and local law enforcement cannot. There are three elements to fix the problem: Raise the quantity triggers for all drugs to realistic levels for high-level traffickers, such as 50 or 100 kilos of cocaine, and end the crack/powder imbalance; Require the attorney general to approve prosecution of any case involving less than 50 kilos of cocaine; Analyze federal drug cases district by district to identify agents and prosecutors who waste their time and our money. If only high-level dealers were being prosecuted by the feds, no one would have cause to complain about the race of the defendants.

Update: TalkLeft has updates on the hearings here and here. It’s good to have Jeralyn back focusing on criminal justice issues.

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