On this page you will find analysis and background information regarding the problems associated with the crack-to-marijuana equivalency table issued by the Commission as part of its November 1, 2007 amendments to the crack cocaine guidelines. These problems have since been resolved by the Commission’s May 1, 2008 amendment to the table.
- A Simple Solution to the False Equivalencies Produced by the New Crack-to-Marijuana Table in Cases Involving Retroactive Application of the Crack Amendment (March 24, 2008)
by Amy Baron-Evans, National Federal Defender Sentencing Resource Counsel
This article describes the mathematical problem created by the amended drug equivalency table and offers legal and mathematical solutions. It explains how the drug equivalency table violates the enabling statute, is inconsistent with the guideline itself, and is not empirically supported. It also outlines why courts have jurisdiction to find in your client’s favor on this issue when resentencing pursuant to the crack amendment. (Part III of the paper contains arguments that may be useful in other contexts when the government claims that relief is barred by USSG §1B1.10.) Lastly, it offers two alternative solutions you can present to courts to ensure that your client receives the intended benefit of the amended guideline. This article was published in the April 2008 issue of The Champion.
- Faulty Math in New Cocaine Base Equivalency Table (January 18, 2008)
by James Egan, Research and Writing Specialist, Northern District of New York
This article addresses one of the mathematical anomalies presented in the new crack guidelines: a failure to appropriately update the conversion table to account for the two-level reduction in crack cases. It compares the pre- and post-amendment crack cocaine/marijuana conversion table in USSG §2D1.1, analyzes the impact of the amendment at each base offense level, and suggests algebraic formulae that more justly determine a client’s offense level under the amended guidelines.
- Timeline of Commission’s Awareness and Actions with Respect to the Bad Math Problem (March 18, 2008)
by National Federal Defender Sentencing Resource Counsel
This paper details critical events and communications showing the USSC’s awareness of the mathematical anomalies in the drug equivalency table since shortly after it opened its crack amendment to public comment in January 2007, and its assurances that it will correct the problem. Practitioners can use this information to persuade sentencing courts to grant relief for their clients in poly-drug cases.
- Memorandum Regarding New Amendments to the Crack Cocaine Guidelines (May 17, 2007)
by Jason Hawkins, Appellate Division Supervisor for the Federal Public Defender, Northern District of Texas
This memorandum describes the mathematical problem in the drug equivalency table using hypothetical examples and laymen’s terminology. It also details the author’s conversation with a USSC Principal Legal Training Advisor, who told him how the USSC derived the table’s ratios between marijuana and crack. The memorandum can aid practitioners in understanding the mathematical problem and provide support for in-court arguments that the resulting disparity is unwarranted and lacks empirical or rational basis.
- Defender Letters to the Commission Regarding the Mathematical Problems with the Amended Drug Equivalency Table (February 22, March 11, and March 17, 2008)
by Federal Public and Community Defenders
At least three courts have recognized the anomalies produced by the new conversion table, and all three imposed a sentence below the amended guidelines as a result. The federal defender community has advised the Commission of these district court decisions in a letter dated February 22, and a letter dated March 11. In addition, at the request of the Commission, the defenders outlined a solution to the anomalies in a letter dated March 17.