The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986

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The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 [the Act] was enacted for several reasons. One of the provisions of the act was to introduce mandatory minimum sentences for individuals who are convicted of possessing a particular amount of crack cocaine and powder cocaine. Individuals convicted with possession of 5 grams of crack would receive a mandatory minimum of 5 years in prison. Individuals convicted with possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine would receive the same 5 year mandatory minimum sentence. This ultimately means that an individual would need to be in possession of 100 times the amount of powder cocaine than that of crack cocaine to receive the same sentence. Congress justified this 100-to-1 sentencing disparity by stressing the serious social harms with which crack use was associated. Although crack and powder cocaine are the same chemical substance, crack sells more cheaply on the street and can be smoked, this induces a briefer, more intense intoxicating effect (Brown, 2004).

In 1986 when the Act was enacted, there were twenty-one African-American members of Congress. Of those twenty-one, eleven voted in favor of the Act. Although, as Kennedy mentions, we cannot understand the reasoning behind the votes because “a representative might be against certain portions of a bill but favor others sufficiently to support the legislation overall” (Kennedy, 1997, pg 370). As Kennedy states, we cannot come to understand the reasoning for voting for the Act, but is clear that prior to voting not one of the African-American Congressmen claimed that the bill was racial biased. However, before the Act was even introduced to Congress, the idea behind the crack epidemic was brought before them.

Charles Rangel, an African-America...

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...ill made much of the Congress bypassing routine procedure in its haste to legislate. But…there is nothing that compels Congress to follow any set course” (Kennedy, 1997, pg 374). Congress could pass an Act as rapidly as it sees fit. It does not need to fully listen to each side’s arguments before determining whether or not to vote on the act. I feel that the ratio may be significantly large and perhaps it could be lowered, but Congress did not act in a racist manner in passing the Act. On the contrary, Congress was looking out for the well-being of the African-American communities who were being devastated by crack.

Works Cited

Kennedy, R. (1997). Race, crime, and the law. New York: Vintage Books.

Brown, D.K. (2004). Anti-Drug Abuse Act (1986). Retrieved November 30, 2010, from
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