Cracking back at a cocaine sentencing disparity

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The state Legislature has approved a law that would reduce sentences for crack cocaine to the same levels as powder cocaine.

The law addresses concerns that unbalanced cocaine sentencing laws punish low-income communities and minorities. It comes four years after President Barack Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which eliminated 100-1 disparities in sentences for crack and powdered cocaine convictions.

Crack cocaine is considerably cheaper than the powdered form of the drug.

L.A. State Sen. Holly Mitchell introduced the California bill. She says that between 2000 and 2005, blacks made up 77 percent of the people sentenced to prison for crack cocaine. Whites made up just two percent.cocainelines

Under current state law, someone convicted of intent to sell crack faces a three-to-five-year prison term, compared to two-to-four years for powdered cocaine.

The bill is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown.

NPR has devoted considerable coverage to cocaine sentencing laws. Read it here.