WASHINGTON, April 29 (UPI) -- U.S. Justice Department officials are endorsing legislation that would eliminate sentencing disparities for possession of powdered versus rock cocaine.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the department's new Criminal Division chief, Lanny Breuer, told a Senate Judiciary Committee panel the White House would support bills to equalize punishment for defendants accused of possessing cocaine in either form.
Civil rights groups have said the sentencing disparity affects mostly poor and minority drug defendants who typical use less-expensive rock cocaine.
Breuer urged lawmakers to act this term to "completely eliminate" the sentencing disparity.
"Now is the time for us to reexamine federal cocaine sentencing policy, from the perspective of both fundamental fairness and safety," Breuer said.