1997 Report to the Congress: Cocaine and Federal Sentencing Policy


In response to directive by Congress, the Commission again has deliberated carefully over federal cocaine sentencing policy and has assessed the concerns raised by Congress, conducted new research, consulted with law enforcement and substance abuse experts, and reviewed all of the Commission’s prior research and analysis. The Commission has accumulated a vast array of information about both powder and crack cocaine and about the changing markets for these drugs. This report contains the Commission's recommendations on federal sentencing policy for cocaine offenses. Appended to this report is Vice Chairman Michael Gelacak's Concurring Opinion. (April 1997)

Key Findings

  • The Commission reiterates its unanimous finding that the penalty for simple possession of crack cocaine should be the same as for the simple possession of powder cocaine.
  • Five- and Ten-year mandatory sentences should be targeted at serious traffickers.
  • Cocaine sentencing policy should advance the federal government’s role in the national drug control effort and rationalize priorities for the use of state and federal resources in targeting drug use and trafficking.