crack_cocaine.jpgWASHINGTON (AP) _ Congress is significantly reducing sentencing differences between crack and powder cocaine convictions that over the past several decades have subjected a disproportionate number of black people to long prison terms.

House passage of what is called the “fair sentencing act'' would send it to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Currently, a person convicted of crack cocaine possession gets the same mandatory prison term as someone with 100 times that same amount of powder cocaine.

The legislation would reduce that ratio to about 18-1.

The 100-1 ratio, enacted in 1986, has led to a racial disparity between blacks, the hardest hit by the crack cocaine epidemic, and whites receiving lighter sentences for possessing equivalent amounts of powder cocaine.

Pictured above is crack cocaine.