Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

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January 19, 2006

It’s NOT about RACE

by Chris

A frequent canard of black activists, liberal advocates, “justice” advocates etc… is that there are “sentencing disparities between powder and crack cocaine”; followed of course by “Clearly because crack is seen as a black drug, these harsher sentences must be racially motivated”.

It is repeated so often that even some responsible conservatives (and a LOT of libertarians)who really should know better, think there is something there.

Only it’s not true. In fact it’s not even the slightest bit true.

It’s not about race; it’s about power, and control.

It is all predicated on a technical detail, that isoften overlooked; and that most don’t understand even if they see it.

See, most people think you should sentence people based on the amount of drugs they have or are trying to sell etc… Which makes sense to a degree. Most people further assume that this amount is based on the number of doses of the drug. This is just intuitive on most folks part; because they think of “one pill, one dose” etc…

Here’s the problem though; in this country, drug related sentencing is generally calculated based on the weight of the drug INCLUDING THE CARRIER; not by the dose.

By that I mean, the actual active ingredient of the drug is generally only a small part of the weight they charge you on, because the weight of all the inactive ingredients is counted as well.

If I mixed 7 grams of cocaine into 1 oz of baking soda, 1 oz of milk sugar; I would be charged as if I had 63 grams of cocaine (which would be a minimum 10 year sentence); even though there is only 7 grams of actual cocaine there.

So why are sentences for crack “so much higher” in comparison to powder?

Crack actually contains a relatively small amount of cocaine by weight, vs. powder cocaine, and the sentencing laws ONLY CONSIDER WEIGHT.

A person with a gram of coke, has maybe 4-6 doses (less for a heavy user); and 1-2 grams would be a typical days usage for a habitual user; with up to about 5 grams for the most serious users (Richard Pryor level).

A person with a 1 gram dime rock of crack cocaine has only about 1/8th to 1/4 gram of actual cocaine in it (there isn’t a lot of consistency in dosage). A crack user will go through anywhere from 5 nickle rocks (1/16th to 1/8th gram of coke) to 10 solid rocks (a $20 2 gram or so rock with between 1/4 and 1/2 gram of actual coke) in a day (from $25 to $200) depending on how much they can buy; and how much tolerance they have built up (10 solid rocks in a day would probably kill a new user)

Thats as little 5/16 of a gram of coke, to maybe 5 grams; about the same as a days use of powder cocaine; but the total weight is from 2.5 to 20 grams.

The sentence is calculated on the total weight, therefore one days worth of crack is counted as anywhere from 2.5-20 times as much drug as one days worth of powder.

And you are sentenced as if you have 2.5 to 20 times as much of the drug.

Of course this doesnt just apply to cocaine.

No-one ever talks about sentencing disparity in LSD, which typicaly has a dosage of less 25 to 50 micrograms, which is one 2000th of a gram in weight; but which is often absorbed into tablets or a piece of heavy paper that may weigh more than a gram.

This means that someone who has five doses of LSD in 1 gram tablets is charged as if they had several hundred, to several thousand doses.

There are dozens of hippies serving 25 to life in prison right now for selling as little as 5 doses of LSD to DEA and FBI agents.

Then theres MDMA, which has the same issue.

It’s not about race; it’s about inflating the numbers of the drug enforcement agencies; and inflating the records of district attorneys. It’s about power, money, and control; pure and simple.


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