Rand Paul Proposes Sentencing Reform Bill for Crack Cocaine

By John Lavitt 08/12/14

In an obvious pitch to African-Americans, the presidential contender has a long way to go in proving his proposal is no election ploy.

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As a potential presidential candidate for 2016, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is trying to drum up early African-American support by reforming the crack cocaine sentencing laws.

Paul has claimed that he wants to level the playing field when it comes to criminal sentencing for crack vs. powder cocaine drug offenses. In a speech to the Urban League in Cincinnati this summer, Paul proposed new legislation that would eliminate the disparity in sentencing for crimes involving crack and powder cocaine.

The current law carries much harsher penalties for the possession of crack cocaine compared to powder cocaine. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, first time offenders possessing 28 grams of crack cocaine would receive a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. On the other hand, offenders with powder cocaine would have to possess 500 grams to receive that same sentence.

Speaking to a minority audience, Paul explained the alleged reasons behind his new policy. “The disparity in sentencing between powdered and crack cocaine is now less glaring than it used to be," Paul said. "But there’s still a disparity. We should free those sentenced under the old guidelines. In addition I want to go one step farther. Today I am announcing legislation that will be introduced today that eliminates any disparity between crack and powdered cocaine.”

Paul officially introduced the legislation, titled the RESET (Reclassification to Ensure Smarter and Equal Treatment) Act, to the Senate at the end of July. In 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act that took the first steps towards narrowing the sentencing disparity for crack vs. powder cocaine offenses from 100:1 to 18:1. Paul’s RESET Act would go one step further, placing both cocaine and crack on equal terms in regards to sentencing.

Considering a potential 2016 presidential run, Senator Paul has made a concerted effort to recruit the support of urban communities and young minority voters in order to broaden the reach of the Republican Party.

Regardless of Paul’s embrace of progressive-sounding policies, the Democratic Party is not buying his sudden change of heart and progressive awakening. “Despite claiming that there isn’t, ‘anybody in Congress doing more for minority rights than I am right now,’ Paul’s newfound ‘passion’ for civil rights seems to be little more than a crass political strategy to try to win votes."

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.