After vicious war on drugs that disproportionately impacted Black Americans, people convicted of possessing only small amounts not eligible for reduced sentences despite retroactive law

15 Jun 2021

People jailed for possessing only small amounts of crack cocaine are not currently eligible for reduced prison sentences despite a federal law that sought to retroactively adjust discrepancies between sentences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine offenders during the war on drugs, according to a US Supreme Court ruling on Monday.

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Justices argued that a recently passed law – the First Step Act, a rare bipartisan measure that sought to correct long-standing imbalances from the war on drugs – only applies to people imprisoned under mandatory minimum drug sentences, but not in cases where judges had more discretion but imposed harsher sentences.

Monday’s decision was unanimous.

Passage of the First Step Act followed the aftermath of the crack “epidemic” in the 1980s, when Congress passed a sweeping law – the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 – that declared that a person in possession of a small amount of the drug could receive the same prison sentence as someone who possessed 100 times that amount in powder form.

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