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Cocaine Facts

  • Street dealers dilute cocaine with inert (non-psychoactive) but similar-looking substances such as cornstarch, talcum powder, and sugar, or with active drugs such as procaine and benzocaine (used as local anesthetics), or other CNS stimulants such as amphetamines.
  • According to information collected in 1902, 92% of all cocaine sold in major cities in the United States was in the form of an ingredient in tonics and potions available from local pharmacies.
  • Users who inject cocaine risk not only overdosing but also infections from unsterile needles and hepatitis or AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) from needles shared with others.
  • Experiments with animals suggest that cocaine is perhaps the most powerful drug of all in producing psychological dependence.

Crack Cocaine Laws

  • Under current federal law, someone caught with five grams of crack cocaine gets a certain five-year sentence -- while someone would have to be in possession of 500 grams of the white, powdered cocaine to trigger the same mandatory prison time.
  • The proportion and number of inmates serving time for federal drug convictions has mushroomed since 1986, when Congress enacted a number of mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes -- including those involving crack cocaine.
  • H.R. 4026, the "Powder-Crack Cocaine Penalty Equalization Act of 2002" is a bill being considered in Congress that would change the current crack cocaine and powder cocaine ratios, created in the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986.
  • The average crack cocaine sentence, 120 months, is greater than: the 103-month average sentence for robbery; the 76-month average sentence for arson; the 64-month average sentence for sexual abuse; and the 31-month average sentence for manslaughter. United States Sentencing Commission, 1999 Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics.
  • Sentences for crack offenders are roughly two to six times as great as sentences for powder cocaine offenders distributing equivalent quantities of drugs. Testimony of the Honorable Deanell Reece Tacha, United States Sentencing Commission, before the House Subcommittee on Crime, June 29, 1995.
  • The average sentence for crack cocaine (ten years) is thirty-five percent longer than the average methamphetamine sentence and fifty-two percent longer than the average powder cocaine sentence. United States Sentencing Commission, 1999 Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics 69.
  • While a majority of crack users in the United States are white, 94 percent of those sentenced under the incomparably severe penalties for crack cocaine are black or Hispanic. Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Justice on Trial: Racial Disparities in the American Criminal Justice System 30 (2000); United States Sentencing Commission, 1999 Sourcebook of Federal Sentencing Statistics 69.
  • Amid widespread criticism directed at the severity and disparate impact of the crack sentencing regime, the Sentencing Commission has twice called for reduced crack penalties, noting A[t]he current penalty structure results in a perception of unfairness and inconsistency.@ United States Sentencing Commission, Special Report to Congress: Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy 8 (April 1997).
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