WASHINGTON – Today, Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) applauded the passage of the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act in the House of Representatives 361 to 66. The bipartisan legislation would eliminate the federal crack and powder cocaine sentencing disparity and retroactively apply it to those already convicted or sentenced.
“The EQUAL Act will help reverse engineer the tragic legacy of the failed war on drugs which has devastated lives, families and communities. There is no justification for treating powder cocaine differently than crack cocaine offenses. There is no pharmacological difference and no significant chemical difference between crack cocaine and powder cocaine, and they both cause identical effects. Crack cocaine has historically been used in inner-city communities and powder cocaine in affluent neighborhoods and the suburbs. That does not justify the wide disparity in sentencing. I thank the tremendous leadership of Rep. Armstrong and all my colleagues in the House who supported this legislation and are committed to burying the failed war on drugs and making the promise of equal justice for all a reality,” said Rep. Jeffries.
“Eliminating the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity is a step toward applying equal justice under the law. The EQUAL Act is sound, bipartisan criminal justice reform, and I thank my House colleagues on both sides of the aisle for its overwhelming passage. I will continue to work with Representative Jeffries and advocate for it in the Senate so this long overdue legislation can get to the president’s desk and signed into law,” said Rep. Armstrong.
The sentencing disparity between crack and powdered cocaine, at one point as high as 100 to 1, helped fuel the mass incarceration epidemic. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, in Fiscal Year 2020, 77.1% of crack cocaine trafficking offenders were Black, whereas most powder cocaine trafficking offenders were either white or Hispanic. In 2010, the Fair Sentencing Act reduced the sentencing disparity from 100 to 1 to 18 to 1, and in 2018 the FIRST STEP Act made that reduction retroactive.
Rep. Jeffries has long advocated for restoring justice to America’s drug laws. He co-authored the bipartisan FIRST STEP Act, which retroactively applied the Fair Sentencing Act, limited the use of juvenile solitary confinement and reduced mandatory minimums, among other important improvements.
The EQUAL Act was introduced in the Senate earlier this year by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Dick Durbin (D-IL).