Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced new legislation today that would eliminate the disparity in sentencing for offenses involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine.
Current law carries much harsher penalties for the possession of crack cocaine compared to powder cocaine. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, first time offenders possessing 28 grams of crack cocaine would receive a five year mandatory minimum sentence. People with powder cocaine would have to possess 500 grams to receive that same sentence.
Paul introduced the legislation, titled the RESET Act (short for “Reclassification to Ensure Smarter and Equal Treatment Act”), on Thursday, but he made the proposal public in a speech to the Urban League in Cincinnati today. The bill would also reclassify some low level drug possession felonies and make sure that food products that contain drugs are weighed fairly.
In 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, which narrowed the sentencing disparity for crack vs. powder cocaine offense from 100:1 to 18:1. Paul’s bill would go much further, completely eliminating the disparity between the two.
The Kentucky Republican, who is not shy about interest in a 2016 presidential run, has made criminal justice reform a cornerstone of his recent legislative pushes. Earlier this month, Paul teamed up with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., to unveil bipartisan legislation to reform the criminal justice system – from offering adults ways to seal non-violent criminal records to permitting the sealing and expungement of juvenile records for kids who commit non-violent crimes.
In recent months, Paul has argued for broadening the Republican Party and has made a concerted effort to reach out to urban communities and young people.