09.28.2017
policy

Why Is The War On Drugs Still A Thing?

It's 2017 and weed users remain targets.

The War On Drugs has been raging since it was first waged by former President Richard Nixon more than four decades ago. Lately, the nation has finally come to terms with the fact that the drug war has been a complete failure as it mostly targets drug users and people (predominantly those of color) as opposed to the life-ruining substances and violence connected to drug culture at large. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws have outsized portions of the community entering the criminal justice system, and local and state police officers are serving as foot soldiers fighting an outdated agenda. 

According to a 2013 study, “expanding efforts at controlling the global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing.” Despite increased investment in law enforcement, drugs continue to get stronger and more pure. More people are using hard drugs––and paying the price for doing so––than ever before, too. 

"That averages out to about one marijuana arrest every 48 seconds.”

“While 1,382 people received federal heroin sentences in 2007, over 2,800 were sentenced for heroin crimes in 2015,” reports the Washington Post. Naturally, weed is lumped into the whole mess. As the FBI estimates in a just-released report, there were just north of 1.5 million drug-related arrests in 2016 alone, the majority of which were for marijuana possession, an act which is legal now in more than half of the country.

Cannabis activist and marijuana journalist Tom Angell crunched some of the FBI data for Forbes and came to a disturbing conclusion:

“Marijuana possession busts comprised 37.36 percent of all reported drug arrests in the U.S. in 2016, and cannabis sales and manufacturing arrests accounted for another 4.18 percent of the total. . . Added together, marijuana arrests made up 41.54 percent of the 1,572,579 drug busts in the country last year. That means, based on an extrapolation, that police arrested people for cannabis 653,249 times in the U.S. in 2016. That averages out to about one marijuana arrest every 48 seconds.”

This disconnect between public health, safety, state marijuana laws, and federal drug policy is a problem. And President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions don’t seem to be seeking solutions, so much as actually reversing progress previously made during former President Barack Obama’s administration. Under Obama, even using the term "War on Drugs," was discouraged, because of its negative connotations. If any one nation is to be declared a "winner" in the global drug war, it's not the United States. But Portugal, which decriminalized drug use in 2001, has since seen the number of overdose deaths dwindle by more than 85 percent. Meanwhile, more Americans reportedly died last year of drug overdoses than in the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq combined. 

Due to Trump's recklessness, the acting head of the DEA, Chuck Rosenberg, will resign at the end of this week, reportedly saying that the president "has little respect for the law."  

If marijuana possession arrests and an opioid epidemic are part of Trump's vision of a "great" nation, then perhaps the president needs a refresher course on the definition of such a designation. Because heroin addiction is hell. And sending your citizens to jail for anything related to marijuana is shortsighted to say the least. 

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