Crack cocaine is a highly concentrated form of cocaine.
The pharmacological effects of crack cocaine and powder cocaine are almost identical. Although crack cocaine and powder cocaine are essentially the same drug, they have a few very important distinctions.
- Appearance – Rather than appearing as a fine powder, it appears as a hard, grainy, and brittle substance. Unlike powder cocaine, it is usually ingested by smoking, although it can also be taken intravenously. .
- Effects on the User – The effects of crack tend to be stronger, while not as long lasting.
- Cost – Crack cocaine tends to be far cheaper than powdered cocaine, and is therefore a large problem in poor urban communities. It is highly addictive, and associated with many negative health consequences.
- Punishment – At the federal level, crack has historically been punished far more harshly than powder cocaine. However, the 2010 Fair sentencing Act lessened the importance of the distinction.
In recent years, the laws concerning crack cocaine have changed dramatically. Historically, under federal law, trafficking of 500 grams or more of powdered cocaine carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in prison. However, for crack cocaine, simply possessing of 5 grams or more – without any intention to sell it – carried the same sentence. More alarmingly, for powdered cocaine, there is no mandatory minimum sentence for mere possession.
In 2010, after several studies indicating the large disparate impact crack cocaine laws had on disenfranchised minorities, the Fair Sentencing Act was passed. Key provisions of the act changed the previous sentencing laws for trafficking crack cocaine to the following:
- Less than 28 grams: Up to 20 years and $1-5 million
- 28 to 279 grams: 5 to 40 years and $5-25 million
- 280 grams or more: 10 years to life and $10-50 million
There is no longer a mandatory minimum for simply possessing crack cocaine.
Those convicted under the previous law are able to petition for release under what is referred to as “retroactive sentencing,” However, release under retroactive sentencing is not automatic. If approved by a judge, someone serving under a mandatory minimum sentence that they would no longer be subject to, they may be eligible for release.
Crack is very serious drug that carries very serious legal consequences. If you are facing criminal prosecution for trafficking crack cocaine, you should seek legal advice immediately. Furthermore, if you know someone who is serving a sentence for a crack cocaine related offense, an experience criminal defense lawyer should know if they are eligible for and may be able to help them petition for release.