A new type of cocaine that was reported to be stronger and more dangerous than powder cocaine
was discovered in the United States in 1985. Essentially, crack was said to be more addictive, have worse
psychological effects, appeal more to young people who could not afford it, and associated with higher
rates of crime compared to powder cocaine. Before crack was labeled a threat, only laws regulating
powder cocaine had been ratified. However, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act established varying provisions for
the two kinds of cocaine, with crack’s regulations bearing worse consequences than those of powder
cocaine (Graham, 2011). For example, five grams of crack and five hundred grams of powder cocaine
carried similar sentences. However, in 2010, Barrack Obama, the then President of the United States,
signed the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) that eliminated the disparity between the punishments that the two
forms of cocaine carried. Before that, the discussion to reduce the harshness of crack-related punishments
compared to those of powder cocaine had been on for about two decades. What inspired the desire to
abolish the Anti-Drug Abuse Act? Critical revelations regarding the two kinds of cocaine emerged and
they necessitated a change in the law that regulated both.
The Problem that Surrounded the Law
One of the most significant influencers of the enactment of the FSA and repeal of the Anti-Drug
Abuse Act was the debunking of the effects of crack cocaine. Foremost, few years after the 1986 surge in
the use of the product, its popularity fell, leading experts to believe that the drug was not as addictive as
initially perceived. Had it been extremely addictive, its use would not have reduced so soon. It was also
determined that the link between crack and higher rates of crimes than those associated with powder
cocaine had been drawn prematurely. Essentially, crack cocaine turned out to be a different form of
cocaine rather than a new product, therefore, it could not have been the cause of the higher rates of crimes
among its users compared to those of powder cocaine. These observations led to the conclusion that the
Anti-Drug Abuse Act was based on emotions and untested hypotheses (Anderson, 2018). Therefore, the
THE FAIR SENTENCING ACT 3
harsher punishment for Crack cocaine when compared to powder cocaine was deemed unfair thus Anti-
Drug Abuse Act was repealed and replaced with the FSA.
While the harsher penalties of crack and powder cocaine were not meant to be discriminative,
they ended up being racially biased. About 66 percent of crack users were Hispanics and Caucasian.
Nonetheless, approximately 85 percent of those incarcerated for the use of the product were Blacks
(Anderson, 2018). Such a disparity was not observed with statistics of powder cocaine. The irrationally
long prison sentences that African Americans served for crack-cocaine-related crimes not only disrupted
the community but also increased the financial burden of prisons on the government and in turn the public
needlessly. Therefore, the Anti-Drug Act was repealed to remove its discriminatory undertone.
When crack entered the United States drugs markets, it caused panic because its effects seemed to
be worse than those of powder cocaine. Consequently, lawmakers rushed to enact tough laws to control
the substance without the necessary research. Later, the law was not only found to be needless, but also
unfair and discriminatory. After it was established that crack was not that different from cocaine, it
seemed fair to harmonize its penalties with those of powder cocaine hence the enactment of the Fair
Sentencing Act. The regulation opened the way for the adoption of other provisions to promote equality
further. Undoubtedly, the FSA is a necessary law.
THE FAIR SENTENCING ACT 4
Anderson S. (2018). Fair Sentencing Act retroactivity: Addressing the sentencing disparity of
crack cocaine vs. powder cocaine. Retrieved from
Graham K. Sorry seems to be the hardest word: The fair sentencing act of 2010, crack, and
methamphetamine. University of Richmond Law Review, 45(765), 765-799
Patterson G. T. (2013).Social work practice in the criminal justice system. Routledge.