What is the 2010 Crack-Cocaine Amendment?


          On August 3, 2010, President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 which reduces sentences for crack-cocaine crimes. The previously existing 100-to-1 sentencing ratio was reduced to 18-to-1.  Also, 28 grams of crack cocaine now carries a  5-year prison sentence, while 280 grams of crack cocaine carries a 10-year sentence. The 5-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine was eliminated. The Fair Sentencing Act does not appear to apply retroactively. It remains to be seen what changes the United States Sentencing Commission will recommend to the crack cocaine federal sentencing guidelines as a result of the law.

          Previously, on November 1, 2007, the sentencing commission amended the crack-cocaine guidelines when it lowered the penalties for most crack-cocaine crimes by two levels. On December 11, 2007, the commission voted to make the amended guidelines retroactive to cases sentenced before November 1, 2007, with an effective date of March 3, 2008.  The commission also significantly changed the retroactive application of amendments.  Through an amendment that became effective on May 1, 2008 (Amendment 715), the commission further modified the sentencing guidelines by revising the way in which combined offense levels are determined in cases involving crack cocaine as well as other drugs.  Amendment 715, which was also made retroactive, provides that 1 gram of cocaine base equals 20 kilograms of marijuana and provides for a two-level reduction in the combined offense level for cases involving more than one type of drug unless certain exceptions apply.