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Bill to Cut Penalties for Crack Cocaine Heads to Obama

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Mandatory-minimum prison sentences for crack-cocaine would only kick in when defendants possess 28 grams or more of the drug under legislation passed this week by the U.S. House of Representatives, the Wall Street Journal reported July 29.

The bill — passed earlier this year by the Senate — raises the threshold for mandatory five-year prison sentences from 5 grams of crack. The reform bill still treats crack possession more harshly than crimes involving powder cocaine; offenders would have to be caught with 500 grams of the powdered version of the drug to trigger a mandatory five-year sentence.

If Obama signs the bill as expected, the new law would result in thousands of crack offenders getting shorter sentences each year, expert said. Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), an advocacy group, will lobby for the revised sentences to be imposed retroactively, according to FAMM President Julia Stewart.

“We think it's a victory,” said Stewart of the bill. “It's not everything we want but that's politics.”

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