President signs The Fair Sentencing Act to reduce inconsistency in crack cocaine sentences

The long-time debate about federal crack cocaine sentences came to a halt this year when the President signed The Fair Sentencing Act that reduces the inconsistency in crack cocaine sentences.

The distinction between crack and cocaine sentencing has been blasted by critics. Historically, 5 grams of crack triggers a mandatory sentence of five years, while it takes 500 grams of cocaine to trigger the same sentence.

Under The Fair Sentencing Act, the threshold is raised to 28 grams of crack for a mandatory five year sentence. The amount of cocaine remains the same.

Supporters of the Act have argued that the distinction between the sentences has unfairly impacted minority communities and African-American men. The difference in the mandatory sentences for crack and cocaine are contrary to the fundamental principles of equal justice.

The new law makes other sentencing changes including eliminating the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack, raising the fines for major drug trafficking offenses, and increases sentences for those who use violence in connection with drug trafficking.

The new law is silent on whether it applies retroactively, but the US Sentencing Commission is being urged by supporters to apply the new law to persons arrested and sentenced prior to the law's enactment on August 3, 2010.