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Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986
Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986
Other short titles
Alcohol and Drug Abuse Amendments of 1986
Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986
An Act to strengthen Federal efforts to encourage foreign cooperation in eradicating illicit drug crops and in halting international drug traffic, to improve enforcement of Federal drug laws and enhance interdiction of illicit drug shipments, to provide strong Federal leadership in establishing effective drug abuse prevention and education programs, to expand Federal support for drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation efforts, and for other purposes.
The appearance of crack cocaine, the June 19, 1986 death of Len Bias (University of Maryland basketball star), the morning after he signed with the NBA champion Boston Celtics, and the June 27, 1986 death of Don Rogers (safety) (Cleveland Browns, 1985 Defensive Rookie of the Year) -- both from cocaine use, encouraged U.S. Rep. Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill, Jr. (D-MA), the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to mobilize the House Democratic leadership to assemble an omnibus anti-drug bill that became the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986.  The congressional interest and intense news coverage created a moral panic surrounding cocaine use, which had earlier been viewed in a more benign or even positive way. that made enacting this legislation so important.  In September and October of 1986, the House (with a Democratic majority) and the Senate (with a Republican majority) competed over which could propose the most severe laws in advance of the pivotal midterm election.
A few House Democrats expressed considerable concern about the provisions of the bill. However, most ultimately voted for it, describing election pressures and fear of criticism as swaying their decision. Representative Mike Lowry (D), who voted against the bill, described the process as "legislation by political panic". Representative Charles Schumer (D), who voted in favor of the bill, said "the policies are aimed at looking good rather than solving the problem." The House passed the Senate version with a 378-16 majority on October 17, 1986.
This act mandated a minimum sentence of 5 years without parole for possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine while it mandated the same for possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine. This 100:1 disparity was reduced to 18:1, when crack was increased to 28 grams (1 ounce) by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.
The act authorized billions of dollars of spending, although substantially less was actually appropriated. Some of this was used to increase the substance abuse treatment federal block grant program, although treatment providers were disappointed at the reduced appropriations following politicians' earlier promises and authorization.
Other programs funded by the act included drug counseling and education programs,AIDS research, and international cooperation to limit drug production.
The Act also included the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act, which required colleges to establish drug abuse education and prevention programs.
The law led to an increase in average time imprisoned for drug crimes from 22 months to 33 months.