Congress passed a bill on Wednesday that would reduce the disparities between mandatory sentences for crack and powdered cocaine violations, a step toward ending what legal experts say have been unfairly harsh punishments imposed mainly on blacks.
The bill, which passed the Senate in March, was adopted by the House of Representatives in a voice vote and now goes to the President for signature.
Administration officials have described the sentencing disparity as “fundamentally unfair,” and Mr. Obama said during the 2008 campaign that it “disproportionately filled our prisons with young black and Latino drug users.”
Under the current law, adopted in 1986 after a surge in crack smoking and drug-related murders, someone convicted of possession of five grams of crack must be sentenced to at least five years in prison, and possession of 10 grams requires a 10-year minimum sentence. With powdered cocaine, the threshold amounts for those mandatory sentences are 100 times as high.