Hillary Clinton Calls For Eliminating Cocaine Sentencing Disparities

By McCarton Ackerman 10/30/15

The Democratic frontrunner believes that President Obama's Fair Sentencing Act doesn't go far enough.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton is moving forward with her plans to alter the criminal justice system when it comes to drug laws, stating that she would eliminate sentencing disparities for drug offenders who use crack and powder cocaine if she were elected.

President Barack Obama’s Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 reduced sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine users. Previously, powder cocaine users needed to possess 500 grams of the drug to be charged with a felony, while crack cocaine users needed to possess just five grams for the same charge. Although Obama upped the threshold for crack cocaine to 28 grams, Clinton believes that isn’t nearly enough.

She supported eliminating these sentencing disparities while serving as a senator in 2007, but took a far more conservative approach compared to other Democratic candidates by opposing the shorter sentences for crack offenders to be retroactive. Clinton also cited racial disparities as a need for bridging the gaps in sentencing, noting that the majority of crack cocaine offenders were African-American and the majority of powder cocaine offenders were white.

To that end, Clinton is also supporting legislation that bans racial profiling. The laws will forbid federal, state and local law enforcement officials from “relying on a person’s race when conducting routine or spontaneous investigatory activities, unless there is trustworthy information linking the person to a particularly criminal incident or scheme.”

Addressing substance abuse continues to be a major topic on the Clinton campaign trail. She touted alternatives to incarceration during her last presidential run and insisted that “we need diversion, like drug courts. Nonviolent offenders should not be serving hard time in our prisons. They need to be diverted from our prison system.”

Though she has stopped short of supporting marijuana legalization at the federal level, Clinton has remained open to it at a state level and said that “states are the laboratories of democracy.” She has also called for more marijuana-related studies and research.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.