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S. 79 (117th): EQUAL Act

The text of the bill below is as of Jan 28, 2021 (Introduced). The bill was not enacted into law.

Summary of this bill

The ratio was 100:1 starting in 1986, then 18:1 starting in 2010. Should it be 1:1 now?


Cocaine is federally classified as a Schedule II drug, the category with the second-highest potential for dependence and abuse, alongside the likes of Vicodin, Adderall, and meth.

The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 created a 100:1 ratio for sentencing people who were caught with crack cocaine versus powder cocaine. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, black people are more likely to use crack cocaine, so the law had a disproportionate effect on nonwhites.

The law was partially crafted and advocated by then-Sen. Joe Biden, though he has subsequently …



1st Session

S. 79


January 28, 2021

(for himself and Mr. Durbin) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


To eliminate the disparity in sentencing for cocaine offenses, and for other purposes.


Short title

This Act may be cited as the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law Act or the EQUAL Act.


Elimination of increased penalties for cocaine offenses where the cocaine involved is cocaine base


Controlled substances act

The following provisions of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) are repealed:


Clause (iii) of section 401(b)(1)(A) (21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(A)).


Clause (iii) of section 401(b)(1)(B) (21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(B)).


Controlled substances import and export act

The following provisions of the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act (21 U.S.C. 951 et seq.) are repealed:


Subparagraph (C) of section 1010(b)(1) (21 U.S.C. 960(b)(1)).


Subparagraph (C) of section 1010(b)(2) (21 U.S.C. 960(b)(2)).


Applicability to pending and past cases


Pending cases

This section, and the amendments made by this section, shall apply to any sentence imposed after the date of enactment of this Act, regardless of when the offense was committed.


Past cases

In the case of a defendant who, before the date of enactment of this Act, was convicted or sentenced for a Federal offense involving cocaine base, the sentencing court may, on motion of the defendant, the Bureau of Prisons, the attorney for the Government, or on its own motion, impose a reduced sentence after considering the factors set forth in section 3553(a) of title 18, United States Code.