This is a good decision from the Supreme Court:
The Supreme Court called Monday for a retreat from the strict national sentencing guidelines set during the “war on drugs” of the 1980s, ruling that federal judges may set prison terms well below those recommendations.[…]
In 1986 — alarmed by the sudden increase in the use of crack — Congress applied harsh mandatory minimums to crack-related crimes. As the court’s majority opinion noted Monday, legislators apparently believed that crack was highly addictive, that its users were more prone to violence, that it was more harmful to users than powder — especially to children whose mothers had smoked crack during pregnancy — and that its low cost and short but intense high made it particularly popular among young people.
Under the law, dealing 5 grams of crack could send a seller to prison for five years — the same sentence imposed for 500 grams of powder cocaine.
No question that crack is highly addictive. But the problem is two-fold:
First, Congress made an arbitrary decision because it was good politics. No surprise there; that happens all the time (see sex offender registries) More importantly though, this law disproportionately affects minorities. I’m not sure the intent was to do that, but as is nearly always the case in feel-good lawmaking, it was certainly the effect. Crack is a much cheaper drug than powdered cocaine and, therefore, became much more prevalent in the African American community and other communities with lower income levels. The result was that African Americans were the chief targets of the law. Many hundreds of thousands of them are in jail for much longer periods because they couldn’t afford the powdered version.
But that’s just me. What do you think? Personally, I think the “War on Drugs” is nothing but a scam perpetrated by politicians who’d rather you focus on that than their own incompetence. It’s a feel-good, reactive “war.” I don’t blame this on the Bush administration – it’s been going on far longer than this – but if Bush and future presidents want an example where pre-emptive war is a good idea, then this is certainly one where that philosophy would work. Legalize or decriminalize drugs like pot and pardon every single person who is serving or has served time for it. Then, find other ways to deal with harsher addictive drugs like cocaine, heroin, and meth.
I’ve no problem with major dealers being incarcerated. My problem is with recreational users-turned-addicts being put in jail. Not only does it cost you and me many, many billions of dollars a year, it accomplishes nothing to solve any drug problem we have in this country.