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Issue Analysis

Fair Sentencing Act Retroactivity: Addressing the Sentencing Disparity of Crack Cocaine vs. Powder Cocaine

College basketball star Len Bias died of a powder cocaine overdose while celebrating his number one draft pick in the 1986 NBA Draft. Because his death was widely, although mistakenly, thought to be due to a crack cocaine overdose, the public and the federal government responded alike -- with panic about the perceived heightened dangers of crack cocaine. This panic served to advance the national war on drugs that was already well underway.


In the Case of Fair Sentencing Act Retroactivity, USSC Report Lends Resounding Endorsement

Retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) which became law in 2010 and reduced the sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1 has been a hotly contested issue in the criminal justice space. The primary concern from those opposed to retroactivity, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is that allowing offenders to petition the court for a review and reduction in their sentence could result in violent criminals being released to the streets, putting public safety at risk.