The sentence for selling crack cocaine in California is tougher than the sentence for selling powder cocaine – even though the drug is the same. On Thursday, the state Assembly approved a bill that would reduce the penalty for crack to the same length as powder.
It wasn’t a surprise to see Democrats support the bill. They argued that poor minorities who disproportionately use crack cocaine get longer sentences than rich whites who use the powder. But some Republicans voted for the measure as well.
Asm. Donald Wagner (R-Irvine) said the law that originally toughened crack sentences was well-intended, but “What we have found, I’m afraid, though, over the ensuing 20 years is a disparity that is hard to justify and perhaps harder, still, to sustain.”
Other Republicans strongly opposed the bill. “We’re talking about reducing penalties on a form of cocaine. Let’s be very clear, members – we’re not talking about minority communities here; we’re talking about people that are addicted to drugs,” said Asm. Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach).
The bill by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) faces a final vote in the Senate before it can move to the governor’s desk.