Debra J. Saunders

While Sterling would like to see the 100-to-one discrepancy end, he believes that Washington needs to overhaul drug laws so that they concentrate on kingpins, not low-level offenders. "There shouldn't be any crack cases in federal court, as a general matter," Sterling argued, "because crack is a purely retail phenomenon. The trafficking is in powder cocaine."

The irony is that most Americans think that federal mandatory minimum sentences -- with extra harsh penalties for crack dealers -- are tough on drug lords, when in fact, the systems goes easy on kingpins.

Sterling directed me to a Sentencing Commission fact table on 2006 federal cocaine cases. The median crack offense involved 51 grams of the drug -- or 100 to 500 doses. The median powder cocaine offender weight was 6,000 grams, about the amount of cocaine that would fill a briefcase. Not exactly your major haul. Not only do these weights suggest that most federal offenders were not kingpins, but worse, the statistics also show that more than half of federal cocaine cases were crack cases -- dealing with as little as 2.3 grams. One-third of crack cases involved 25 grams or less.

Drug kingpins should love the status quo.

Passage of the Biden bill would present a welcome change in disparity-heavy drug laws. The goal should be laws with heavy consequences for drug-trade heavyweights, instead of hefty sentences for lightweights.

Debra J. Saunders

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