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Criminal penalties for crack versus powder cocaine touch on a wide range of issues from race to state budgets to overcrowding of prisons. The Senate Judiciary Committee today took on the issue by unanimously voting to advance a bill that would reduce the wide disparity in sentencing for possession of the two.

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Did you know that under current law it takes only 5 grams of crack cocaine to trigger a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, but it takes 500 grams to trigger the same sentence for possession of powder cocaine? That's a 100:1 ratio, and, since crack cocaine is generally an poor, urban, black drug and powder cocaine is generally an upper-class, white, suburban drug, it looks a lot like institutionalized racism.

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