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August 3, 2010
12:19 PM

CONTACT: Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM)

Monica Pratt Raffanel 202-621-5044

FAMM Applauds President Obama for Signing Bipartisan Crack Cocaine Bill: Next Step Retroactivity

WASHINGTON - August 3 - In an Oval Office ceremony on Aug. 3, President Barack Obama signed sweeping reforms to federal crack cocaine laws, reducing unduly harsh sentences for crack violations and repealing the five-year mandatory minimum for simple possession of crack cocaine - the first time that a mandatory minimum drug sentence has been repealed since the Nixon Administration.  The overwhelmingly bipartisan bill received support from Sens. Richard Durbin, Jeff Sessions, Tom Coburn, and Reps. James E. Clyburn, Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, Dan Lungren and F. James Sensenbrenner.

FAMM president and founder Julie Stewart offered this statement in reaction to the signing:

"It's deeply rewarding to see significant reform of crack penalties.  For years the sentences were widely understood to be flawed and illogical, created in the heat of the drug war without any scientific basis for their severity.  Hopefully, this victory signals the beginning of new bipartisanship that will lead to even more commonsense sentencing reforms.  The first test is whether Congress will finish the job on crack reform and apply the law retroactively.  When a corporation discovers a flawed product, it stops producing it and orders a recall from the market.  Similarly, when Congress acknowledged that crack penalties were flawed, they rightly corrected them going forward, and now must provide due relief to those already in prison serving stiff sentences for crack violations.

"For 20 years, FAMM has worked with thousands of individuals and families who have been directly impacted by harsh crack penalties.  Congress needs to show them the same compassion, fairness, and justice that the new law will provide to those entering the prison system."

The new law does not eliminate the mandatory minimum for trafficking crack cocaine, however the infamous 100-to-1 sentencing ratio is now reduced to 18-to-1.  Moving forward, 28 grams of crack cocaine will trigger a five-year prison sentence and 280 grams of crack will trigger a 10-year sentence.  The law could affect an estimated 3,000 cases annually, reducing sentences by an average of about two years and saving an estimated $42 million over five years.  The new law also increases sentences for drug offenses involving vulnerable victims, violence and other aggravating factors.

Click here to read a new Washington Post editorial lauding the signing and recognizing FAMM for working to change the crack disparity for 20 years. For more detailed information about the history of the federal crack disparity and the changes that will result under the new law, go to the following link at FAMM's website,


Families Against Mandatory Minimums is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization supporting fair and proportionate sentencing laws that allow judicial discretion while maintaining public safety.  For more information on FAMM, visit or contact Monica Pratt Raffanel at


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