Vindicating Reagan’s Drug Policy…25 Years Later

Maya M. Noronha /

Two weeks ago, the U.S. Sentencing Commission promulgated a permanent amendment to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines that reduces jail time for those convicted of offenses related to crack cocaine.  Liberals would love to portray the new drug sentencing standard for crack cocaine as a success story, in which the Obama administration undid a draconian Reagan-era drug policy.  Critics are unduly harsh on Ronald Reagan’s drug policy, blaming the Great Communicator for driving the hysteria in the 1980s which led to the enactment of unfair criminal drug laws.

However, liberals might want to avoid taking credit for “fairer” crack cocaine sentencing laws when President Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.  A look back twenty-five years ago reveals it was not President Reagan behind the gross disparities in sentencing of cocaine traffickers but in fact the liberals who created the problem in the first place.

In 1986, Congress was drafting the Anti-Drug Abuse Act.  Mandatory sentencing minimums for trafficking in crack cocaine and powder cocaine were treated differently, based on presumptions about the degree of differences in the addictiveness of crack cocaine and its link to violent behavior.  Legislators needed to determine how crack and powder cocaine should be sentenced. (more…)