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Expand chart
Data: USSC; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

In a rare show of bipartisanship, the House voted 361-66 on Tuesday in favor of the EQUAL Act — a bill that would eliminate sentencing discrepancies between offenses for crack and powder cocaine.

Why it matters: For decades, much smaller amounts of crack than powder cocaine have triggered mandatory minimum sentences of at least five years, despite them being different forms of the same drug. And that's fueled a significant racial disparity in drug-sentencing outcomes.

  • 77% of those arrested for and convicted of crack trafficking in 2020 were Black, compared to 27% for powder cocaine, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission. 64% of powder cocaine offenders were Hispanic.
  • More than half of traffickers for either kind of cocaine received at least five-year sentences. There have been fewer crack than powder cocaine offenders in recent years, but the crack offenders have received more prison time, on average.

Between the lines: Both Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, a progressive Democrat, and Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, a conservative Republican, spoke Tuesday afternoon in support of the bill.

  • Their unity showed that while the police reform debate remains partisan and contentious, other efforts at criminal justice reform have garnered more bipartisan support in recent years.

How we got here: A law passed in 1986 created the same mandatory minimum sentences for crimes with five grams of crack and 500 grams of powder cocaine — a 100:1 disparity.

  • In 2010, that disparity was reduced to 18:1 through the Fair Sentencing Act.
  • In 2018, in the First Step Act, that reduced disparity was made retroactive, allowing more than 3,700 incarcerated people — almost all Black — to reduce their sentences and thousands to be released early.
  • If the EQUAL Act passes the Senate, the disparity would be eliminated both for future offenses as well as retroactively. The Biden administration's acting director of National Drug Control Policy has voiced support for the bill.

What to watch: The dynamic duo on criminal justice reform — Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — are working on a larger package that could include measures to address cocaine sentencing disparities.

Go deeper

Columbus drug cops busted for allegedly dealing fentanyl

The Columbus Division of Police headquarters. Photo: Paul Vernon/AFP via Getty Images

Two Columbus police officers on the department's drug cartel unit were arrested Tuesday on federal drug trafficking charges.

What's happening: Marco Merino, 44, and John Kotchkoski, 33, are accused of working together to sell cocaine and fentanyl over the course of several months in 2021.

  • Unbeknownst to them, they dealt these drugs to undercover FBI agents and a confidential informant, court documents allege.

White House unveils plan to "quickly" vaccinate kids ages 5-11

Charles Muro, 13, is inoculated at Hartford Healthcare's mass vaccination center at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Conn. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

The White House on Wednesday released its plan to vaccinate children between the ages of five and 11, pending authorization from the Food and Drug Administration of the first COVID-19 shot for that age group.

The big picture: The White House said it has secured enough vaccine supply to equip more than 25,000 pediatric and primary care offices, hundreds of school and community health clinics, as well as tens of thousands of pharmacies, to administer the shots.

2 hours ago - Sports

Where it stands: Weed policies by U.S. sports league

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With public support for marijuana legalization nearing unanimity, and more athletes using cannabis to treat pain, the four major U.S. sports leagues continue to reduce restrictions and punishments.

Driving the news: NBA players won't be subject to random marijuana testing this season, an extension of an agreement between the league and its players' union that began ahead of the 2020 Orlando restart.