Nov 28, 2006 What is cocaine base- Virginia drug lawyer on defending crack & powder
What is the cocaine sentencing disparity for crack versus powder – Discussed by Virginia criminal lawyer
What the 18-to-1 crack to powder cocaine federal sentencing disparity (100-to-1 before 2010) does is to penalize cocaine base/crack more severely even though it is pharmacologically the same as powder cocaine. statutory language (e.g., 21 USCS § 841(b)(1)(A)(iii)) distinguishing “cocaine base” from powder cocaine. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know that some federal courts have equated cocaine base interchangeably with crack, and others have looked at the smokability of the substance, as discussed further below.
Fairfax criminal attorney on the pharmacological non-distinction between powder and base cocaine
Cocaine base and powder cocaine are pharmacologically indistinguishable from each other. U.S. v. Brisbane, 367 F.3d 910, 911 (D.C. Cir. 2004), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 938 (2004); U.S. v. Gunter, 462 F.3d 237, 240 (3d Cir. 2006). Cocaine “is usually processed for importation into the United States by dissolving the cocaine base in hydrochloric acid and water to create a salt: cocaine hydrochloride, C17H22C1NO4 (powder cocaine). Powder cocaine may then be converted back to its base form by cooking it with baking soda and water… In numerous trials before this Court, the Government’s forensic chemists have testified that powder and crack cocaine are the same chemical substance, just in a different form.” U.S. v. Hamilton, 428 F. Supp. 2d 1253, 1257 (M.D. Fl. 2006).
The generally more conservative Fourth Circuit treats cocaine base and crack interchangeably. U.S. v. Ramos, 462 F.3d 329, 434 n2 (4th Cir. 2006). What the District of Columbia Circuit, however, has ruled is that a conviction for cocaine base — rather than for powder cocaine — requires proof that the cocaine base is smokable. Brisbane, 367 F.3d at 914.
Fairfax drug lawyer on the unfairness of the cocaine base-powder sentencing disparity
The cocaine base-powder sentencing disparity needs to be eliminated. What some so-called tough-on-crime advocates have suggested is to close this sentencing gap by increasing the penalties for powder cocaine. I say that the entire drug enforcement system must be completely overhauled to focus more on a harm reduction approach that includes marijuana legalization, a heavy reduction of penalties, and the elimination of mandatory minimum sentencing.
Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz pursues your best defense against drug, felony, misdemeanor, marijuana, and DUI prosecutions. To discuss your case with Jon Katz, please call his staff at 703-383-1100 to schedule a confidential consultation.