Until last August, the federal government had a 100-1 ratio in sentencing people for possession of crack cocaine versus powder cocaine. That meant someone caught with 1 gram of crack cocaine was given the same sentence as someone caught with 100 grams of powder cocaine.
Then, President Barack Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, reducing the federal disparity to a ratio of 18-to-1. The Sentencing Project, a national advocacy group for criminal justice reform, believes the disparity should be removed completely.
According to an article from The Associated Press, the group said the disparity is unfair to black drug users, who are more likely to be charged with crack cocaine offenses and end up with longer prison terms than cocaine users of other races.
Missouri is one of 13 states that currently punishes crack cocaine offenders more harshly than offenders sentenced for powder cocaine. Missouri's disparity is a 75-1 ratio; New Hampshire is the only other state with a sentencing disparity higher than the federal government's.
Missouri Rep. Chris Carter, D-St. Louis, agrees with The Sentencing Project's findings that the sentencing disparity has a racial component and treats black offenders unfairly, according to the AP's article. The disparity also adds to overcrowding in Missouri's prisons.
"I want to reduce the disparity and begin to empty the prison system of low-level and nonviolent offenders and still keep public safety," Carter said in a recent news conference.
Carter plans to submit legislation to end Missouri's disparity when the General Assembly returns from its spring break.
Should Missouri remove its sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine?