WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today joined U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C to introduce the SMART Cocaine Sentencing Act, which would reduce the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenders tried in federal courts. The legislation aims to make sentencing fairer while also preserving the ability of courts to keep those most likely to reoffend off the street. The measure would also take on the surge of powder cocaine entering the country by isolating heavy sentencing for high-level drug traffickers and kingpins.
“Sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine have been a problem for some time,” Wicker said. “We need to be able to resolve those disparities while still punishing the cartels and drug networks that severely impact American families and communities. I am glad to join Senator Grassley on this well-designed legislation to improve the fairness, transparency, and effectiveness of our drug laws.”
“I’ve worked on this issue for many years. I cosponsored the 2010 legislation led by Senators Durbin and Sessions to reduce the disparity in sentencing from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1. It’s high time to do more to address this important issue and make our criminal code more just and fair. Our legislation will significantly reduce this disparity while ensuring those more likely to reoffend face appropriate penalties. Powder cocaine is being trafficked across the border in historic volumes, so we also need to take precautions that ensure these traffickers also face justice for spreading poison through our communities,” Grassley said.
“In the past few years we have seen a huge increase in the amount of drugs being trafficked across our Southern border, especially cocaine. Not only is this bill an important step towards fairer sentencing of crack cocaine offenders, it will also give law enforcement officers more tools to fight drug trafficking,” Lee said.
The SMART Cocaine Sentencing Act would reduce the current crack-to-powder cocaine sentencing disparity from 18:1 to 2.5:1. It would reduce the volume required to trigger five-year mandatory minimum sentences for powder cocaine from 500 grams to 400 grams, and from 5 kilograms to 4 kilograms for 10-year mandatory minimum sentences. For crack cocaine, the volume triggering a five-year mandatory sentence would be increased from 28 grams to 160 grams; the volume for the 10-year mandatory sentence would be lifted from 280 grams to 1,600 grams.
The act would also require an attorney general review and certification process for any retroactive sentencing adjustments. It provides for new federal research and reporting regarding the lethality and addictiveness of these substances, as well as what violence is associated with cocaine-related crimes. The research would include analysis of recidivism rates on these drug-related crimes.
Full legislative text of the SMART Cocaine Sentencing Act can be found here.