Skip To Content
July 10, 2023

Trone Urges Passage of EQUAL Act Amendment to End Sentencing Disparity Between Crack and Powder Cocaine


July 10, 2023

Contact: Sloane Gallagher

Trone Urges Passage of EQUAL Act Amendment to End Sentencing Disparity Between Crack and Powder Cocaine

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman David Trone (D-MD), co-founder and co-chair of the Second Chance Task Force, released a statement urging his Congressional colleagues to pass the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law (EQUAL) Act amendment as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024. Trone was an original co-sponsor of the EQUAL Act when it passed the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2021, but the legislation subsequently stalled in the Senate. 

The bipartisan amendment aims to eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses and would allow for fairer re-sentencing of those currently imprisoned under the past sentencing structure:

“Before coming to Congress, I proudly partnered with the ACLU to fight against policies that have led to over-incarceration in our country and fight for a criminal justice system that’s actually just for all Americans. In Congress, I’m continuing this fight. Passing this amendment is an essential step to get there, and I urge all of my Congressional colleagues to join me in passing it into law.

“America’s sentencing disparity for cocaine is one of the clearest examples of historic, systemic racism in our judicial system. Requiring stricter mandatory sentences for crack cocaine is rooted in racial prejudice, and it’s long past time we right this wrong.

“The only real difference between these two substances is that one has historically been found in wealthier, white neighborhoods, while the other is more commonly found in Black and Brown communities – and our criminal justice system’s response to this public health crisis was largely driven by harmful, unequal, and unfair perceptions between these groups.

“The EQUAL Act finally eliminates the federal laws that treat crack cocaine and powder cocaine differently, which have contributed to the disproportionate, mass incarceration of Black and Brown Americans across the country.”


In 1986, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act established mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking offenses. The sentences for crack cocaine versus powder cocaine were originally formulated and passed into law by Congress at a 100:1 quantity ratio, an arbitrary formula that led to much more frequent and harsher sentences for crack cocaine offenses. In 2010, the Fair Sentencing Act reduced the quantity ratio to 18:1 after continued calls by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to eliminate the disparity since 1995. 

If passed, the EQUAL Act will fully eliminate sentencing disparities between the two drugs, establishing a 1:1 quantity ratio for sentencing. A study by FAMM found that, if enacted, the EQUAL Act would reduce sentences for people serving time for crack offenses by an average of just over six years. This change alone would cut a total of 46,500 years off sentences nationwide.

In support of this effort, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued guidance in December 2022 instructing prosecutors to charge and make sentencing recommendations for crack cocaine defendants no differently than for defendants in powder cocaine cases.

Representatives Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Kelly Armstrong (R-ND), Stephanie Bice (R-OK), Nancy Mace (R-SC), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) joined Trone in introducing the amendment last month. 

Congressman David Trone was elected to the House of Representatives in November 2018 to serve the 6th District of Maryland, which includes all or part of Montgomery, Frederick, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett Counties. Trone serves on the Appropriations, Budget, and Joint Economic Committees in the 118th Congress. In Congress, Trone is fighting to make progress on issues that matter to Marylanders.

Follow Congressman Trone at @RepDavidTrone for updates on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.