Ending federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine supports Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities to promote evidence-based drug policy and advance racial equity
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Regina LaBelle, Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy, issued the following statement on House passage of the Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law Act (EQUAL Act):
“The House’s bipartisan passage of the EQUAL Act today brings us a step closer to eliminating a historic injustice in our nation’s criminal justice system. The Biden-Harris Administration strongly supports eliminating the current disparity in sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine that for far too long has caused significant harm to individuals, families, and communities of color.”
In June, Acting Director LaBelle testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing entitled, “Examining Federal Sentencing for Crack and Powder Cocaine,” where she voiced the Administration’s support for the EQUAL Act, urged swift passage of the bill, and described how the legislation is in alignment with the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities to promote evidence-based drug policy and advance racial equity.
Background on Administration actions on addiction and the overdose epidemic:
In its first-year drug policy priorities, the Biden-Harris Administration outlined a strategy that includes expanding access to evidence-based prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services, as well reducing the supply of illicit drugs. Since January, the Office of National Drug Control Policy has worked with other agencies across the government to advance President Biden’s drug policy priorities. Among the actions taken in the first eight months of the Biden-Harris Administration are:
- The American Rescue Plan invested nearly $4 billion to allow the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and Health Resources and Services Administration to expand access to vital mental health and substance use disorder services. The funding also included $30 million in supports for harm reduction services—a historic amount that will enhance interventions like syringe services programs.
- HHS released the Practice Guidelines for the Administration of Buprenorphine for Treating Opioid Use Disorder, which exempt eligible health care providers from Federal certification requirements related to training, counseling and other ancillary services that are part of the process for obtaining a waiver to treat up to 30 patients with buprenorphine. This action expands access to evidence-based treatment by removing a critical barrier to buprenorphine prescribing.
- The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lifted a decade-long moratorium on opioid treatment programs that want to include a mobile component. This rule change will help provide treatment to rural and other underserved communities, including incarcerated individuals.
- CDC and SAMHSA announced that Federal funding may now be used to purchase fentanyl test strips in an effort to help curb the dramatic spike in drug overdose deaths.
- ONDCP designated six new counties as part of its High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program. These counties, located in states like California, Illinois, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania, will receive support for regional law enforcement efforts to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations.
- ONDCP provided funding for the nationwide expansion of the HIDTA Overdose Response Strategy to all 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. The Strategy brings together drug intelligence officers and public health analysts at the local and regional level to share information and develop evidence-based intervention and support services that reduce overdoses.
- ONDCP provided funding to support the establishment of state-level model legislation that advances efforts to expand access to harm reduction services, as well as promote equity in access to treatment and drug enforcement efforts for underserved communities.
- ONDCP hosted more than 300 State, local, and Tribal leaders from all 50 States, Washington, D.C., American Samoa, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands for a virtual convening entitled “Opioid Litigation Settlement: Using Evidence to Lead Action.” At the convening, government officials, researchers, and experts discussed how State, local, and Tribal governments can use evidence and data to guide decisions about how funds from opioid litigation can be spent to address addiction and the overdose epidemic, while advancing equity.
- ONDCP, HHS, and DOJ presented to Congress the Biden-Harris Administration’s recommendations for a long-term, consensus approach to reduce the supply and availability of illicitly manufactured fentanyl-related substances (FRS), while protecting civil rights and reducing barriers to scientific research for all Schedule I substances.
- ONDCP announced $13.2 million in grants for 106 Drug-Free Communities (DFC) Support Programs across the country working to prevent youth substance use, including prescription drugs, marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol.
In addition to these actions, the President’s FY22 budget request calls for $10.7 billion to support research, prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services, with targeted investments to meet the needs of populations at greatest risk for overdose and substance use disorder.
The FY22 budget request also includes significant investments in reducing the supply of illicit substances. In particular, it includes important increases in interdiction efforts, which include air and maritime activities to seize drugs in transit and deter access to routes, enhancements of source nations’ ability to interdict drugs, and efforts along the United States border to interdict the flow of drugs. The FY22 request also continues to support efforts to strengthen source country programs that address drug trafficking and corruption, strengthen the rule of law and anti-corruption activities, promote human rights, and support development programs.