Drug Laws and Institutional Racism: The Story Told by the Congressional Record

Drug Laws and Institutional Racism: The Story Told by the Congressional Record

Drug Laws and Institutional Racism: The Story Told by the Congressional Record

Drug Laws and Institutional Racism: The Story Told by the Congressional Record

Synopsis

Chambers' hypothesis is that an historical analysis of the Congressional discussions surrounding the opium laws in the late 1800's and early 1900's, the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, and the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 will illustrate that competition and threat, economic and/or political, were present prior to the enactment of the laws. Analyses indicate that while economic and to a limited extent political competition between Chinese immigrants and white Americans affected the passage of the opium laws, economic and political competition had little effect on the Marihuana Tax Act or the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. While anti-minority sentiment during the opium legislation was clear and recognizable, it was almost non-existent during the marijuana legislation, and present in only nuances in the 1980's. Thus, while racism was overtly embedded in three of the four opium laws it was more subtly embedded in the Anti-Drug Abuse Act.

Excerpt

I began this research questioning the difference between the laws for cocaine and crack . They puzzled me because I could not understand why the sentences for crack were so extreme as compared to cocaine, when crack is a derivative of cocaine. While researching this line of questioning I found that the United States Sentencing Commission, which had assisted in writing the sentencing guidelines in the Anti Drug Abuse Act of 1986, was lobbying Congress to amend the guidelines by reducing the penalties for crack and bringing them closer to those for cocaine. in 1995, Congress rejected the U. S. Sentencing Commission’s recommendation to reduce the penalties for crack; this marked the first time that Congress had rejected a Sentencing Commission recommendation . Just days before Congress voted, African American men from all over the U.S. met in Washington for the Million Man March. Was this coincidence or did the African American men’s ability to mobilize influence legislator’s decision? the answer may never be ascertained definitively, but it did lead me to

Possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine carried a 5 year sentence whereas 500 grams of cocaine were required for a 5 year sentence.

On March 17, 2010 the Senate passed the Fairness in Sentencing Act of 2010 which reduces the 100 to 1 quantity ratio to 18 to 1, raising the quantity of crack cocaine from 5 grams to 28 grams (Sentencing Project, 2010).

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