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Last Updated: Aug 17, 2012 - 2:31:26 PM

Comments on Change in Federal Illegal Drug Sentencing Guidelines by Past NOBLE National President Clarence Edwards
By Clarence Edwards Past National President
Nov 9, 2007 - 7:06:41 PM

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The National African American Drug Policy Coalition (NAADPC) is a coalition of pre-eminent African American professional organizations, united with a common cause to redefine the nation’s drug policies and laws, through the promotion of policies and programs that provide a more effective and humane approach to address the chronic societal problem of drug abuse.   The chair of the NAADPC is the honorable Lee P. Brown, former Mayor of Houston, TX and former Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and NOBLE member.


In April 2004, the NAADPC convened a Blue Ribbon Commission to examine the impact of U.S. Drug policies on African Americans.   In October 2004, I was asked to represent NOBLE on this prestigious Commission as a Blue Ribbon Commissioner.   One of the Blue Ribbon Commission’s primary strategic objectives is to restore equity to the criminal justice system by addressing the disproportional adverse effect of drug law enforcement on people of color and the poor.


The current overrepresentation of African Americans in America’s criminal justice system is directly related to the 1986 passage of federal sentencing guidelines creating a 100-to-1 ratio between the possession of crack cocaine and powder cocaine.   Crack cocaine is the drug of choice among black illicit drug abusers and powder cocaine is the drug of choice among whites.  


The NAADPC applauds the U.S. Sentencing Commission decision to reduce its recommended sentences for crack cocaine offenses.   This decision is a step in the right direction, but it does not eliminate the “mandatory minimum” federal law that requires a five year sentence for the possession of five grams of crack cocaine.


Incarceration for the possession and sale of relatively small amounts of illegal substances has not diminished this activity in any significant way.   Scarce public resources would be better spent on education, prevention, treatment and research programs, which have proven significantly more effective in reducing drug abuse than the use of expensive criminal sanctions.   Until society recognizes that drug abuse is an illness requiring comprehensive long term treatment and care this societal problem will continue.

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