Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word: The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, Crack, and Methamphetamine

Kyle Graham *

On August 3, 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 into law. This measure eliminated the five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence that previously adhered under federal law upon a conviction for possession of five grams or more of crack cocaine. The Act also increased the amount, in weight, of crack that must be implicated for either a five- or a ten-year mandatory minimum sentence to apply upon conviction of any of several federal drug trafficking crimes. The latter provision significantly reduces the disparity between the amount of crack that will trigger these mandatory minimums and the amount of powder cocaine that will produce the same results. Whereas federal law previously treated one hundred grams of powder cocaine as the equivalent of one gram of crack for sentencing purposes, after the Fair Sentencing Act, the statutory ratio now stands at a mere 18:1.

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* Assistant Professor, Santa Clara University School of Law. The author thanks David Ball for his input, and Lauren Case and Valerie Perdue for their research assistance.