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Cocaine versus Crack

Cocaine is an abusive drug which has been derived from coca plant and also used in powdered and rock form. A powdered cocaine is referred as the cocaine or the coke while the rock form of cocaine is referred as crack or crack cocaine. The cocaine is generally in the form of hydrochloric salt while a crack cocaine is formed by adding water and sodium bicarbonate which later combine to form a solid and then broken into pieces to form smaller pieces of crack and these crack are sold to the drug addicts. Crack cocaine is extremely addictive but looks different from cocaine. Cocaine is white in color while crack ranges from white, light brown, cream or even tan. The cocaine is commonly snorted while the crack is generally smoked. Cocaine is more expensive to purchase hence an alternative to it was business development known as crack. The crack was cheaply available to the drug addicts and became more accessible to the people who are from the lower class of the socioeconomic demographics. People from these groups were looking for cheaper alternative to get high hence they resorted to crack. These massive upsurge in demand of crack led to an evident phenomenon of crack epidemic by the year 1980s there was an immense abuse of this substance by these communities. A study by theNational Study on Drug Use and Health reports that in the year 2008, there were over 1.9 million users of cocaine, and among which 359,000 were using crack. Crack is in fact abusive to health as it enter the bloodstream as soon as it is inhaled from the lungs and hits the brain in not more than 10-15 seconds. Moreover, overdosing of the crack can lead to hyperventilation, coma, convulsions and even death in extreme cases. Crack and cocaine are two major substances that have led a devastating impact on the youth. The potential youth which can be a potential demographic dividend can meet a dreadful end at the expense of the addiction to drug. Youth are often drawn into drug abuse when they are unable to handle their emotions while most of they get trapped in the bad company and thus meet their doom quite early. Crack cocaine can lead to major weight loss, hallucinations, paranoia and even seizures. It can trigger a drug addict to commit suicide or sometimes in case of overdose it can be fatal. The cocaine hydrochloride was a kind of main cash crop for the countries of South America majorly in Colombia. At that time the cocaine was hardly popular and used by the people and the demand was also very limited. As the demand increased the case of drug trafficking has also increased forming an organized crime. The cocaine was imported from South America into the US market. Via air and sea routes. The trafficking organization was playing a pivotal role in handling the affairs of managing the operations of the carrying out the illegal activities throughout the country. The crack was appeared first time in Miami and was later immigrants of the Caribbean who taught the youth about the technique to form crack from the cocaine. The business thrived capturing numerous teenagers in the business who made the product easily and distributed in the major cities of the US like that of New York, Detroit and gradually thrived well in Los Angeles.

Crack epidemic

The crack epidemic occurred in 1980’s in USA in which involved a huge surge and indiscriminate use of crack cocaine has resulted a vast cases of crime and violence. The arbitrary differences of in the sentences between the crack cocaine and powder cocaine has led to social discrimination. Initially, the crack cocaine entered into the socially degraded communities during the tenure ofPresident Ronald Reagan. During that period there was a paradigm shift in the manufacturing industries which pushed these industries outside the main city area. The massive relocation led to an emergence of new competition in the workforce which widened the bridge between the diverse socio-economic segments of America. There was fewer resources as well as skills who were required to sell the crack. Most of the small drug peddlers worked as independent drug supplier are was not controlled by the organized cartelization like that of Medelin cartel. These small time drug dealer of crack generally earned over an average income of $ 2000 per month. There was a massive demand for the crack cocaine due to which the prospects of the dealers to incur profit arose to a greater extent. They indulged in violence with their customers to extract profit from their customers. These widespread consumption and demand of crack cocaine led to massive upsurge of criminal activities between the year 1981 and 1986. There was rapid increase in cases like manslaughter, murder, robbery leading to crowding of the federal prison. The US President aimed to prioritize the situation and introduced a war on drugs to combat the drug traffickers and end the catastrophic event of crack epidemic. Many laws relating to anti-drugs, prison programs, campaign against drugs were initiated to tackle the menace of drug abuse. In order to deter the consumers of cocaine harsh penalties were imposed on violating the laws. A mandatory punishment was carried out on the drug peddlers, further there was a huge burden in the court to solve cases of drug abusers. The evident war on drugs attacked the small time drug dealers who engaged in dealing drugs solely for income thus losing out their income they were pushed to poverty. The population in the prison also doubled as both drug dealers and customers were arrested. There was one out of four African American males in the age of 20 to 29 who were generally incarcerated thus making United States as the one the country with highest rate in incarceration in the world. The statistics increased to almost one in three by 1995. Even today the repercussions of the crack epidemic can be felt yet their significance have downgraded and today it is not substantial. The crusade unleased in the year 1980s against the disastrous effects of crack cocaine towards humanity stills continues to haunt and plague various other communities in every nook and corner of the world.

Class distinction in Crack Epidemic

The powder cocaine has been generally consumed by the elite class of people who form the white aristocratic class. This product has a stigma attached to it that it is popular among the high affluent class mostly because of the high price tag attached to it, less popular among the lower class of addicts who generally resorts to cheaper product for ecstasy. Any policy regulating these products can create a wider gap of social disparity between rich and poor addicts. If we go by the facts which is remarkable to put as it saysin United States v. Blewett case where over 30,000 federal prisoners serving their sentences are crack-cocaine cases. This means the percentage of convicts serving the crack- cocaine sentences were black. Crack epidemic witnessed a significant rise in the usage of crack was popularized mainly because it was affordable and had a higher profit margin in trading and selling these products. There was also an incredible increase in the drug related crimes and greatly affected the population. Crack was priced between $5 and $20 per vial was popular for the euphoric effect it had on the people who consumed the. The name crack was also related to the noise it made on consuming the substance. It kept the consumers for craving the product more often thus leading to a massive upsurge in the addiction for crack cocaine. The significant rise in the cocaine users increased by 1.6 million people (Fryer et al., 2014). The aristocratic class did had an upper hand in the overall sentencing phenomenon in contrast to the African Americans.

Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986

If we go back to as before as 1986, these two substances were treated equally under the federal laws and it was regarded as the most addictive drug that has been ever used by men. The historic act of 1986,The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 announced for a sentence of minimum five years for committing first offence for possessing a minimum of 5 grams of crack. The same law punished the cocaine holders for possessing at least 500 grams of abusive cocaine to award a five year sentence. This difference in punishment based on holding the amount of crack and cocaine led to social discrepancy in sentencing people. The famous so called ratio sentencing emerged as it had to take over 100 times of cocaine as crack to get a similar punishment what a 500 grams holder of crack (Palamar, 2015). The act was discriminatory as the prompt consequence of this was several African Americans were imprisoned for holding as little as 5 grams of addiction of crack. Crack was readily available in the low income group of area as it could be easily produced and also the cost of production was lower. The immediate target of the crack epidemic was African Americans as the record says more than 80 percent charged with offences in crack were mainly African American ("1995 Report to the Congress: Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy", 2018). The immediate effect was that it led to an emergence of racist ideology in processing of the legal cases that survived till 2010 when the remarkable Fair Sentencing Act was passed in the year 2010.

Steps taken to change the discrepancy

The legal challenges haunting the disparity in the sentences did stimulate action from the counterparts and drew much attention in the backdrop of the hue and cry made. The backlash was countered only in 2009 as from the 1986 to 2010, the ratio remain unchanged. Despite the effort of the U.S. Supreme court to allow the lower courts to order penalties to the cocaine convicts according to their discretion , the disparity was lesser addressed. In Kimbrough v. United States (2007) and Spears v. United States, the lower court decided to determine the penalties and also allowed the judges to follow their own discretion which was a major depart from the aforesaid action of sentencing guidelines. Other district courts like that of Virginia and Pennsylvania had created one to one ratio of sentences for crack to powder cocaine cases. Moreover, the historic case of United States v. Booker (2005) and Blakely v. Washington (2004) had also made an attempt to weaken the federal sentencing guidelines. The sentencing disparities was not addressed completely rather it only made the guidelines as advisory. The commission of U.S. Sentencing made the first attempt to resolve the disparity in the year 1994 after a studying the penalties of drug abuse over many years (Parker & Anthony, 2014). The commission also agreed to the disparities which was said to be unjustified as it marked the little difference between the two substances cannot mandate two different sentences for similar crimes. It also advised the Congress to equalize the ratio and sentences punishing the convicts of the drug abusers. Many bills was brought to legislation but it could hardly pass any major reform, leaving a large section of population left behind at the behest of the racist epidemic. The war on drugs has regulated the drug abuse but at the same time unleashed a massive crackdown on the lower income communities. The law is seen as a manifestation of racial discrimination. The criminalization has led to a profound system of unjustified racial control. The devastating effect on the minorities is something not new to the African American who have witnessed major escalation before their dignity was restored in eternal and time. The law enforcement agencies has also not performed well for the exploited community.

Sign of official Race discrimination

Several families belonging to the African American communities are struggling for the never ending poverty and famine like conditions mainly in the area within the cities. The widespread use of the crack cocaine have only aggravated their agony as it became a major obsession among the people. This burdened on their petty disposable income which has multiplied their problems manifolds. The devastation it had left on these people had severely affected their problems as varying sentences were also unjustified, biased and rises from the racist ideology. These communities were easily tracked down and the officials has a heavy had on them. The drug addicts from these communities were often caught with little amount of crack cocaine as little as 5 grams. If they were caught, heavy penalties were imposed. The legal process and cases also had a heavy impact on their pocket. Being unable to bear the legal expenses they were jailed for years. Most of the youth caught in the crack cocaine drug trap spent a vital part of their life confined in jails. Being cut off from their families they were unable to rehabilitate from the drug menace. The drug which initially had spoiled their life actually in serving the sentences they were unable to overcome the problems. Their whole industry experiences as documented in the records portrays the horrifying effect they had undergone. These youth could have been guided or mentored but instead the sentence took a heavy toll on their life. The whites on the other hand took the advantage of the sentence for their intentionally maintained their quantity of the drug lesser than 500 grams of powered cocaine. The whites were pretty well off to buy the costlier cocaine hence they took the advantage of the existing loophole and could easily get away with the heavy amount of powdered cocaine(Cappellino & Meringolo, 2013). This discrimination and the evident social stigma and racism attached had a devastating effect on their lives. The varied differences could not be justified on any grounds as mentioned by the Congress. The reasons of crack cocaine being more addictive and the necessary reasons to crack down on the drug peddlers indulging in illegal smuggling could have been ironed out if similar efforts for the powdered cocaine was also been taken. The whole effort of the federal sentencing policy was not an adequate responsible actions. Moreover, the repercussions of the varying sentences has also not been rectified in due time despite the lower courts were allowed to use their discretion. The discrimination on the basis of ratio of powdered cocaine and crack cocaine and the required action by the government to rectify was long overdue. The act of 1986 had undermined the foremost and ideals of the fundamental rights of the United States. This will be a blot on the federal sentencing policy as the vast gap between the ratios had a detrimental effect on the citizens of the country. The image of the US as to uphold the fundamental rights and bar any kind of discrimination on the grounds of race, creed or color seems to weaken through this bias sentencing policy (Bailey et al., 2017). The effort of the judiciary did play a vital role as it recognized the evident discrepancy and made effort to make the guidelines as only advisory. In many cases the lower court deployed their own discretion and true sense of judgment in numerous cases. The disparity was unfair yet it was a great learning lesson for the Congress to recognize the earlier mistake. There has already been a lot of racial discrimination in US but the measures adopted was truly in the right direction. The archaic law was repealed with the coming of FAIR SENETNCING ACT OF 2010.

The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010

The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 had finally eliminated the social disparity by removing the minimum sentence of five year thereby increasing the amount held by the crack addicts for a punishment of minimum sentence. The ratio of crack to powder cocaine was changed to 18-to-1 from100-to-1. Despite decreasing the disparity in their ratio configuration the sentencing has been reduced to some extent. The act was enacted in the year 2010 on August 3 as a remarkable effort to remove the discrepancy haunting the African American and the white Americans since 1986(Ashworth, 2015). This act is acknowledged as a benchmark to improve the fairness in the federal criminal system as against the racial bias existing over years. Prior to the act, the drug addicts were arrested for violating the law and holding minimal amount of crack and also faced severe penalties than those who held cocaine in larger quantities. During that era, the Congress justified its actions against the crack cocaine sentencing by stating that the substance crack cocaine was found to be more addictive hence the triggered more criminal violence than the powdered cocaine (Reinarman & Levine, 2017). The other prominent reason highlighted by the Congress was that since crack was more addictive it will attract more youth for its consumption. Further, it was also said that the crack cocaine was cheaper and easily available thus enabling a larger group of youth in indulging into crack cocaine. It was also sighted that the crack cocaine has larger medical implications than the cocaine powder. It also proved to be more vulnerable for the pregnant women. The study also established that there was no other substance which can be as addictive as the crack. Though the whole act of 1986 was termed as racially biased it is less seen as an attempt of responsible act. Any drug be it cocaine or crack cannot be considered healthy unless medically proven.

The abuse of drug is very well known in the country as youth and demographic dividend is driving towards loss and wastage. The immediate effect of the drug can bring momentary ecstasy but the long term effect can be ruthless and bring slow death therefore an ultimate effect of drug abuse is fatal. It is mandatory for the government to take action against it but not at the cost of unequal bias where the penalty is based upon the amount of drug held by a particular addict. The act of 1986 was definitely tilting towards unfair biased treatment of the lower income group who resorted to the cheaper alternative of cocaine. The ill treatment rendered to the African American is completely unjustified as the reasons stated by the Congress is not convincing enough to punish a drug addict on the content carried by them (Evans, Garthwaite, & Moore, 2016). This was certainly a blot on the federal criminal system as in the words of President George Bush, the credibility of the entire drug enforcement system is weakened. According to U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, "The sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine has contributed to the imprisonment of African Americans at six times the rate of Whites and to the United States' position as the world's leader in incarcerations."

Critics have propounded that the federal policing has been a detrimental and had a distinct social disparity yet the effort to mitigate the issue has been overdue for a longer period of time. They have applauded the mitigating efforts taken by the judiciary as despite having ramifications it also had far reaching effect on the community stigmatized to the unjustified laws imposed on them. These communities of African American were victims of not only poverty and malnutrition but also the biased laws of federal sentencing. The long period of slumber from 1986 to 2010 cannot be rectified yet the future generation could be made more aware of the menacing effects of drug abuse. A positive rehabilitation and chemical dependency must be sorted in human beings for a prosperous life. The teenagers who often resort to drugs as an escape need to educated to take on cherish on the brighter things in life. They should be guided to involve to their social circle or loved ones and discuss their problems rather than absorbing into the vicious circle of drug abuse. The obsession of drug is harmful not only for human health but it is an unlawful act according to the federal laws of the country. Chemical dependency triggers violence in the society as the youth loses the ethical values thus unable to differentiate between right and wrong actions. They tend to commit heinous crime like murder if they are unable to get their daily dose of the drug. The youth needs to be educated profusely on the subject concerned as in their tender age they are attracted to the newer things in life and explore the unexplored path. Hardly, they realize that it can lead to doom and the brutal effects for it can impair human relations with their closed ones. It is necessary to find adequate steps to curtail the impact of drug abuse majorly the teenagers who often get trapped due to inadequate knowledge of the drug abuse. The drug addicts also need a proper rehabilitation to recover from the brutal after effects of drug abuse to lead a harmonious life ahead.


1. 1995 Report to the Congress: Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy. (2018). Retrieved from
2. Ashworth, A. (2015). Sentencing and criminal justice. Cambridge University Press.
3. Bailey, Z. D., Krieger, N., Agénor, M., Graves, J., Linos, N., & Bassett, M. T. (2017). Structural racism and healthcare inequities in the USA: evidence and interventions. The Lancet389(10077), 1453-1463.
4. Cappellino, A., & Meringolo, J. (2013). The federal sentencing guidelines and the pursuit of fair and just sentences. Alb. L. Rev.77, 771.
5. Evans, W. N., Garthwaite, C., & Moore, T. J. (2016). The White/Black educational gap, stalled progress, and the long-term consequences of the emergence of crack cocaine markets. Review of Economics and Statistics98(5), 832-847.
6. Fryer Jr, R. G., Heaton, P. S., Levitt, S. D., & Murphy, K. M. (2013). Measuring crack cocaine and its impact. Economic Inquiry51(3), 1651-1681.
7. Palamar, J. J., Davies, S., Ompad, D. C., Cleland, C. M., & Weitzman, M. (2015). Powder cocaine and crack use in the United States: An examination of risk for arrest and socioeconomic disparities in use. Drug and alcohol dependence149, 108-116.
8. Parker, M. A., & Anthony, J. C. (2014). Should anyone be riding to glory on the now-descending limb of the crack-cocaine epidemic curve in the United States?. Drug and alcohol dependence138, 225-228.
9. Reinarman, C., & Levine, H. G. (2017). The crack attack: America’s latest drug scare, 1986-1992. In Images of issues(pp. 147-186). Routledge.
10. Wallace, B. C. (2014). Crack cocaine: A practical treatment approach for the chemically dependent. Routledge

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