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Statement on Signing Legislation Rejecting U.S. Sentencing Commission Recommendations

October 30, 1995

Today I reject United States Sentencing Commission proposals that would equalize penalties for crack and powder cocaine distribution by dramatically reducing the penalties for crack. The Sentencing Commission would also reduce the penalties for money laundering by combining the guidelines on money laundering with those on transactions in unlawfully acquired property. I am opposed to both of these changes.

Since I took office, my Administration has fought to stop drug abuse and to stamp out the crime and violence that are its constant companions. We are battling drug traffickers at every level of their networks—from the very top to the very bottom.

The Cali Cartel, which pumped drugs into America with seeming impunity, is now on the run. We have intensified our efforts to work with drug producing countries to stop drugs from coming into the United States and to capture major drug traffickers. We told criminals convicted time and again for serious violent crimes or drug trafficking that from now on, it's three strikes and you're out. And we established the death penalty for drug kingpins, because they should reap what they sow.

We are putting 100,000 police officers on America's streets. We banned assault weapons because America doesn't want drug dealers to be better armed than police officers. We are helping schools to rid themselves of guns, and we are also helping schools to prevent teenage drug use by teaching children about the dangers of drugs and gangs. And we support schools who test student athletes for drugs.

All of this is beginning to work. For the first time in a very long time, crime has decreased around the country. But we cannot stop now.

We have to send a constant message to our children that drugs are illegal, drugs are dangerous, drugs may cost you your life—and the penalties for dealing drugs are severe. I am not going to let anyone who peddles drugs get the idea that the cost of doing business is going down.

Trafficking in crack, and the violence it fosters, has a devastating impact on communities across America, especially inner-city communities. Tough penalties for crack trafficking are required because of the effect on individuals and families, related gang activity, turf battles, and other violence.

Current law does require a substantial disparity between sentences for crack as compared to equal amounts of powder cocaine. Some adjustment is warranted, and the bill I am signing today, S. 1254, directs the Sentencing Commission to undertake additional review of these issues and to report back with new recommendations.

Furthermore, the sentencing structure should reflect the fact that all crack starts as powder. When large-scale cocaine traffickers sell powder with the knowledge that it will be converted into crack, they should be punished as severely as those who distribute the crack itself. I have asked the Attorney General to immediately develop enforcement strategies to bring about this result. As I said before, we are going after drug traffickers at every level of their networks.


The White House, October 30, 1995.

NOTE: S. 1254, approved October 30, was assigned Public Law No. 104-38.

William J. Clinton, Statement on Signing Legislation Rejecting U.S. Sentencing Commission Recommendations Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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