Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Crack vs. Powder Cocaine, In Pictures

1. As a result of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, Congress established different mandatory penalties for cocaine and crack cocaine, with significantly higher punishments for crack cocaine offenses. There is a 5-year minimum prison penalty for a first-time trafficking offense involving 5 grams or more of crack cocaine or 500 grams or more of powder cocaine (see top chart above) and a 10-year mandatory minimum penalty for a first-time trafficking offense involving 50 grams or more of crack cocaine or 5,000 grams or more of powder cocaine.

2. One gram of pure powder cocaine will convert to approximately 0.89 grams of crack cocaine (see middle chart above).

3. Historically, the majority of crack cocaine offenders are black; powder cocaine offenders are now predominantly Hispanic. In 2006, African-Americans accounted for 82 percent of crack cocaine-related arrests, while white and Hispanic offenders accounted for 72 percent of powder cocaine-related arrests (see bottom chart above).

Bottom Line:

1. Members of Congress might need some remedial math, especially on decimals? If 1 gram of powder cocaine = .89 grams of crack cocaine, why is the amount of crack cocaine for five years of jail time (5 grams) 100X less than for powder cocaine (500 grams)?

2. Nobel economist Milton Friedman once called the minimum wage "the most anti-black law on the books." For once I have to disagree with Milton, I think the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 is now the most anti-black law on the books. By far.

Fortunately, the
Supreme Court is considering this egregious sentencing double standard.


At 10/02/2007 3:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Waiting/depending on the government for change is unwise. Take responsibility for your self. Switch to cocaine powder immediately to avoid long prison stays. That is all.

At 10/02/2007 7:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems as if the United States has found a way to legally jail the black man for a longer time without mandating the same for the white man doing the same thing. This is what politics is all about!! This is based on a law that a bunch of white men passed thru Congress, and a white president signed. I am sure that white police officers will enforce the law. A white judge will oversee a white jury in handing down the prison sentence to the black man. Don't forget.... the white rich men will pay the taxes to keep the "unwantables" behind bars...

Isn't it easy to see how the modern democracy handles these racial problems? I wonder how the great god of economics would approach this problem. Supply of crack goes up...blacks in jail goes up. Supply of powder goes up, white get more fines, but stay home to see blacks going to jail on the news.

A person could go on forever on this topic!!!!

At 10/02/2007 10:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Free to choose?

Crack cocaine is HIGHLY ADDICTIVE. Powder cocaine is fairly addictive. And it takes a hell of a lot less crack cocaine to get you fu@*ed up.

Therefore, a person with 3.5g of powder cocaine (an 8-ball or 1/8oz) is looking to snort it. A person with 3.5g of crack is looking to sell it for a profit.

The same logic can be applied to any larger ratio of powder:crack cocaine, since there is a fine line between the clocker and the fiend. A fiend would never have more than 5g on them. NEVER! They can't afford it. Powder cocaine users can afford to carry larger amounts. I watch Cops, it's always the case.

The law distinguishes between users and pushers. So, yes more blacks choose to push crack than whites. But isn't that an entirely different problem? This is just an outcome of a dilemma.

Ask Tyrone Biggums about it if you don't believe me.

At 10/03/2007 8:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Throwing people in jail for years over a non-violent self-abusive behavior like drug possession/use is a good way to reduce the unemployment rate.

If we didn't do this then there would possibly be an additional one million people added to the ranks of the unemployed. What politician needs this?

Just think of all the prison guards and associated workers that would lose their jobs. What would we do with the empty prisons if we didn't house them with non-violent drug law offenders...turn them into schools?

At 10/03/2007 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this talk about coke makes me want to get out and score an 8 ball.

At 10/03/2007 1:29 PM, Blogger thomasblair said...


At 10/09/2007 10:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Therefore, a person with 3.5g of powder cocaine (an 8-ball or 1/8oz) is looking to snort it. A person with 3.5g of crack is looking to sell it for a profit.

Your a dumbass don't talk out of your ass. I love this line especially.

Powder cocaine users can afford to carry larger amounts. I WATCH COPS, it's always the case.

Although you are almost right about powder users being able to carry more its not always the case!

At 10/09/2007 12:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Your" a dumbass. I love it!

At 10/09/2007 2:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand this article. There is no penalty for not breaking the law. STOP breaking the law. Who cares if the punishment for crack is different than coke. If you don't have either then you won't be worried about such things. This is no conspiracy. A conspiracy involves people or groups secretly meeting to hatch a plan without others knowing. This is baltant. I hate when WE Black people blame stuff on our own ignorance. I am not saying that we don't have many obstacles that are put in front of us by the government and other individuals, but look in the mirror. We are killing each other so that we can take control of blocks to sell illegal drugs so that we can buy STUFF. Not home improvment or computers or books or things to make us better off. We want to buy bling and crap that depreciates. Dead bodies are bad for business. We could sell crack forever and no one would care as long as bodies wern't showing up and people aren't getting robbed and other crime is kept to a minimum. This is as much about Black people being savy, undersatnding the system and workign the system than anything else. Step ya game up, suckas.

At 10/09/2007 3:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What if (and this is just hypothetically speaking) that there is much more violence associated in crack related crimes than those associated with cocaine realted crimes, irrespective of race?

At 10/09/2007 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've railed coke, and I know a couple people who've gone down the crack path.

And to be fair, while they're chemically similar, they're very different drugs. None of the coke users I know (and some of them, at least for a while, were complete addicts, but no longer are) had any major problems with it other than blowing all their money on it. The guys I know (er... knew) who smoked crack literally killed themselves on it.

Both have dangerous side effects, but crack *is* far worse than coke, IMO.

The real solution is to end the war on drugs. Any way you look at it, no one that I've known deserves jail for it. Yes, they're fucking their *own* lives up, no one elses. Going to jail for any length of time would not have improved their lives ONE BIT, in fact, it would have destroyed it. Even a 6 month prison stay means you've lost your job and home (unless your home is paid off 6 months in advance), and it's very difficult to get a job with that kind of record. So instead of just being an addict, now they're homeless and unable to find work.

So if anyone ever tells you that prison is for their own good, kick 'em in the junk.

At 10/09/2007 5:17 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

What if... stay with me..... WHAT IF.... are you ready?..... What if you stayed away from drugs?

Wow, image that nifty idea. Stay away from drugs.

At 10/09/2007 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why you've gotten it completely wrong! It's not the most anti-black law - it's the most pro-Hispanic law! They're the ones who do the most powdered cocaine and the laws totally let them get off with more of the cane. Rage, I say!

At 10/09/2007 8:24 PM, Blogger Charles G said...

The knee-jerk answer is that the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 which established these guidelines was an act of racism, and the owner of the linked blog implies this with his graph of the apparent correlation between the enforcement of these guidelines versus race.

But an even starker graph, no doubt, would be to establish the correlation between these guidelines and class: it is the poor people and unemployed who use crack, and these stiffer penalties are meant to keep the poor in their place, and protect the wealthy from the law.

I think that class is really the central issue of our time and more often than not limiting the discussion to race or sex limits the scope of any analysis of a social problem. Everything should be placed in its proper context.

At 10/10/2007 4:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of equal importance is an investigation into the prison industrial complex, specifically UNICOR - US federal government agencies and branches of the US military are required to purchase goods and products manufactured by UNICOR before soliciting outside bids. UNICOR is privately owned, and no other company can compete with an organization that can legally pay their employees 20 cents per hour to manufacture textiles, furniture, cleaning products etc. The crack law mentioned in this article provides thousands of able-bodied workers that are incarcerated on average 20 years to life.

From a scientific perspective, crack cocaine is only powder cocaine mixed with baking soda. Yet crack cocaine is continually referred to in US criminal indictments as a myriad of magic concoctions including but not limited to "cocaine bicarbonate" and other magical formulas which add a 10X multiplier to prison sentences.

This all points to one thing that is the bigger picture: drug prohibition is as useful as alcohol prohibition was, with only lawyers and politicians benefiting from this senseless war that gives an inherent and tangible value to an otherwise worthless substance.

Drug use and abuse is a societal issue, it is absurd and draconian to punish individuals for putting a substance into their own body as a means of escape from modern day societal woes.

At 10/18/2007 1:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After looking at these comments I have to say that this is not an issue of Black vs White. I have grown up in a society where it is always Black vs White. I am so sick of it. Crack and powder cocaine have ruined my family. I have a white family. I watched my sister throw away her kids. I have watched her and her boyfriend destroy themselves. I have just seen them get caught with 28 grams of crack. They are, I hope, going to jail soon. I think this issue of Black vs White needs to stop. It kills alot of people and families. That is it. Let it be. To get these people and drug dealers off of the streets would be a blessing. I was at a gas station recently and I had a dealer come up to my window and tried to make me buy his drugs. I told him to get the hell away from me. I am very anti drug. The next thing I know I have a gun in my face. All I could say to this young man was I hope your mom is proud of you. I will take this bullet but you will take the jail time. I will not have to live the life that you have chosen. Even if it is minimum wage, that is a job to be proud of. I have had to work many minimum wage jobs. That is also not just a black thing. Quit pushing that in my face. I have been treated just the same in that respect. I am not racist and I also look at the world with the same eyes. If you do not get educated you go nowhere. I learned that. Get over what happened so many years ago. I have indian heritage but I am not lashing out because all my land was stolen and I had to live in camps and also be used as a slave. This is 2007 move on or our nation will be at war. Live peacefully earn your place. I had to.

At 10/26/2007 2:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 10/26/2007 1:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11/02/2007 12:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saying that this is any ethnic atrocity of any kind is ridiculous. Are you aware of the amount of powder cocaine that is sold at the street level, in comparison to crack cocaine? Powder cocaine is sold nearly as frequently as marijuana in many neighborhoods.

The drugs themselves are consumed in entirely different forms, crack cocaine being much more habit forming and harmful then its powdered counterpart.

Its absurd to think that this is an issue of race and not of a drug epidemic. Perhaps the "black man" should trade professions.

At 11/21/2007 10:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

please help me!!! what should I do about my boyfriend who can't get off drugs? I just found out that he is doing crack instead of snorting which is what I thought he was doing. He says he wants to stop and he wants us to work on this together. He just got into radiology school and is doing so great that I don't want to see him going through this, possibly ruining his life!!!

At 2/06/2008 10:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

most of these comments are obviously from people who either have no direct experience with cocaine or are currently involved in the use of it (which severely skews their perception). I have earned my Masters Degree in cocaine the hard way and I can tell you that jail time for a cocaine addict is very often the ONLY way they can get enough clean time to treat their addiction.
Cocaine addiction crosses ALL racial and economic boundaries. To say that there is some conspiracy to keep the brown man down with a variation in sentencing laws is idiotic. The difference between crack and powder is similar to the difference between a BB gun and a Howitzer. If it is all legalized, many people would die.

At 3/11/2008 7:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's more simple than black vs. white. If people would just quit breaking the law they won't go to prison. How difficult is that to understand? It isn't rocket science folks.

At 4/17/2008 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah ok, so the system is heavily biased against crack cocaine as opposed to powder, whoop-dee-fucking-doo. A reasonable person might surmise that this is just one more reason not to get mixed up in it. Seriously, why is it asking so goddamned much for people to just not smoke fucking crack? You'll have to excuse me for not giving a shit about crackheads going to prison.

At 10/27/2008 4:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So because a black, socioeconomically challenged crackhead is more likely to deal, buy, or do drugs on the street for lack of a better place, and the white, socioeconomically strong coke-head is more likely to do his dirty deeds inside his home or office, your saying it is all the system's fault right?

Sorry but if your stupid enough to smoke crack on the street your stupid enough to get caught. The white guy will eventually loose his house, wife, kids, business and eventually get introuble too once he gets caught up in his addiction. It just takes longer because he is smart enough (at least at first) to wait till he gets it home to fry his brain.

At 1/16/2009 1:21 AM, Blogger Locke said...

To the author of this blog, I liked this post and especially your graphs.

However, I think it is incorrect to assume that jail terms should scale linearly with the amount of cocaine because crack cocaine is arguably more destructive (more powerful, more addictive, more likely to sell your sister, etc.) than powder cocaine; therefore, the penalty has to be much steeper.

At 3/22/2009 7:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoever is commenting that these laws are racist, and is black, is themselves a racist. First of all, this article sub divides blacks and then hispanics and whites together. If you broke that down further, you would see that the statistics is more like 60%black drug use, 40% hispanic drug use, and 20% white drug use. Now why is this? Perhaps because if you look at it percentage wise, black people as a race, use drugs more. Many stimuli affect this like lower standards of living due to lower attained education levels,higher inner city concentrations, etc. the bottom line is that minorities use drugs, because they are disadvantaged. It is not "white" people distributing the drugs to begin with. Most coke is grown and processed in latin american countries, and then transported here for consumption. So if anyone was holding anyone down, it would be the hispanic drug cartels. Get a clue. and also before you accuse someone of unfair rules, you might think about this too. White culture doesn't glorify living in the TRAP or dealing bricks, or any of the other drug dealing,holding, and distributing actions that Black and Hispanic (in some countries) pop and hip hop support. So mabe reeducating the population is the way to go. Higher standards of living, less likely to need alternative income, etc. and hey, worse comes to worse, you'll be able to afford the good stuff too. (wipes powder off of nose). :)

At 7/20/2009 5:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoever is commenting that these laws are racist, and is black, is themselves a racist.

What a dumbass!!That right there is a racist comment in case you didn't know, and it is obvious that you are white.

"you would see that the statistics is more like 60%black drug use, 40% hispanic drug use, and 20% white drug use. Now why is this? Perhaps because if you look at it percentage wise, black people as a race, use drugs more."

Where did you get your numbers?? First of all if you were as smart as you try to sound, you would know that there are more white crack cocaine users then black. Yes more blacks sell crack cocaine, but you act like that is worse then powder cocaine. If you were at all educated with this topic, you would know that several professors (some white; some black) have been able to prove that there is more drug being used in powder then in crack. That is because crack is cooked, diluted and broken down. On the pther hand powder cocaine is pure 100% drug. So think again, powder @ucks you up quicker and longer!! Also, yeah blacks might sell what you call bricks, but whites sell what you call keys!!

The only reason the crack cocaine laws are stiffer is because the politicians are fully aware that there white family members are dealing with powder cocaine, and want to make sure they don't get too much jail time!!

But, fortunately all this will soon change!!

Oh and by the way I am bi-racial, and I have my MBA. I am currently working on my PHD, how about you?? Also you might want to look at the polls regarding education between whites and blacks. I think you would probably be very surprised!

Educated Bi-Racial Woman

At 7/16/2010 1:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that it's not fair the some guy selling 5 grams of crack has the same penalty as someone selling 500 grams of coke. Crack is definitely a lot more money.Someone could have 5gs or of crack for personnel use and face a few years behind bars. While someone caught w. a 8 ball is probably looking at probation. Both of these people are users. I feel dealers should be dealt with more strictly. If selling crack get you in more trouble then selling cocaine,I wouldn't feel for the person.

The cops are gonna try and hit users with intent to sell. Snitches or informants are gonna try to make it look like a user is selling. Which is a lot easier w. crack.

It's unfair to black people,some of you say. Come on how about not smoking crack and realize that shit is gonna get you knocked. Sort the stuff or better yet don't do it.

At 3/31/2011 2:52 PM, Blogger Eazy Erok said...

While I agree with the final summation that these laws are indeed racist, I can't help but feel let down by the author for over-simplifying a difficult and complicated problem.

For instance, in your graph you have the powder to rock conversion, where you contend that crack cocaine is 89% that of the powdered form. That actually goes AGAINST your findings- if 1g of powder equals .89g of rock, then 1g of rock is equal to MORE actual pure cocaine.


And I'm sure if you could find some numbers on secondary and tertiary crimes surrounding each, you'd be surprised by how much crime is RELATED to acquiring the crack as opposed to those for powder.

Crack is more pure, more dangerous and has harsher withdrawal and cravings which (can) make users do crazier things to get more.

We need to acknowledge and recognize these facts as we move forward to try and get more just laws around drugs/drug use.


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