FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Ending the War on Drugs

by YOLANDE CADORE

“America’s public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.” These were the words of President Richard Nixon on June 17th, 1971.

For those of us on the front lines, organizing in America’s toughest neighborhoods, the idea is na?ve at best. At worst, it’s a deliberate and subtly racist misrepresentation. We are fully aware of the myriad social ills plaguing communities all across this country, and the misuse of drugs simply is not the primary concern. We acknowledge that problematic drug use can have a life changing effect on individuals and families. But individuals and families forced to live in degraded indoor and outdoor environments, in socially neglected communities without viable economic opportunities, is equally problematic.

On a daily basis, we are confronted with the realities of America’s enemies, including the effects of the lack of affordable housing, the fate of students attending low performing public schools, the assault on women’s rights, and the ongoing disregard for environmental laws. These conditions are created and perpetuated by social determinants that are deeply rooted in a system that is marred by inequities and injustices, and they deserve the time and attention of our elected officials. Instead, our resources are disproportionately devoted to a war on drugs that has proven to exacerbate these very problems.

While our elected officials play politics, thousands more precious American lives will be lost to preventable drug overdoses. Many more will contract Hepatitis C and HIV through intravenous drug use. Millions of black and brown men and women will have their life expectancy reduced due to mass incarceration and economic and social marginalization. Scores of families will be needlessly torn apart. Urban and rural communities across the country will be destabilized by the violence of drug prohibition. And legislators at every level of our government will still be grappling with their fiscal nightmares, trying to balance budgets that in years past have allocated literally millions of dollars to a failed policy. It’s failed to make our neighborhoods any safer, it’s failed to provide adequate treatment for drug addiction, and it has utterly failed to eradicate drugs from our society.

For too long, our drug policy has been framed in the nervous and reactionary language of Richard Nixon and his successors, allowing policy makers to craft ineffectual yet politically convenient laws. As it becomes clearer and clearer that this war cannot be won, they are left in a compromising position? in complete acquiescence to those preaching law, order and punishment, yet morally obligated to mitigate some of the suffering caused by their own failed policies.

The time is now. Policy makers must be awakened from their political amnesia and call to memory the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan? the chaos that can ensue if you enter into a war without a clear exit strategy, or cannot muster up the political will to course-correct when faced with impending failure. More importantly, they must acknowledge that we will never have a “drug-free” America. There has never been and never will be a drug free society. The only realistic expectation is for those who use drugs do so responsibly. Unless our drug policy reflects this expectation, we will continue to waste both money and human potential.

As we commemorate the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s declaration of drug abuse as “America’s public enemy number one”, I appeal to you to challenge this claim. Close to a trillion dollars has been allocated to fight the drug war that could otherwise have gone toward repairing our tattered social safety net; by providing quality education to our children, and assuring adequate housing and food security for our most vulnerable families, among many other things.

If we are to bring about a sea change in American drug policy, it will take each and every one of us, and there is no better time than now. We have dedicated our lives to fairness, justice and equal human rights, and have fought hard to make drug policy more humane, but we have not yet successfully characterized the war on drugs as a social justice issue. In order to realize a truly just society, we will need to re-frame the debate. We will need to call out the war on drugs for what it really is? a war on families and communities.

Yolande Cadore is the Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Drug Policy Alliance.

 

 

 

More articles by:
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail