Drug War Anniversary

Submission Date: February 11, 2011
Attributing Author: Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance
Source: The Huffington Post

A Time for Reflection and Action

Some anniversaries provide an occasion for celebration, others a time for reflection, still others a time for action. This June will mark forty years since President Nixon declared a “war on drugs,” identifying drug abuse as “public enemy No. 1.” As far as I know, no celebrations are planned. What’s needed, indeed essential, are reflection — and action.

It’s hard to believe that Americans have spent roughly a trillion dollars (give or take a few hundred million) on this forty-year war. Hard to believe that tens of millions have been arrested, and many millions locked up in jails and prisons, for committing nonviolent acts that were not even crimes a century ago. Hard to believe that the number of people incarcerated on drug charges increased more than ten times even as the country’s population grew by only half. Hard to believe that millions of Americans have been deprived of the right to vote not because they killed a fellow citizen or betrayed their country but simply because they bought, sold, produced or simply possessed a psychoactive plant or chemical. And hard to believe that hundreds of thousands of Americans have been allowed to die — of overdoses, AIDS, hepatitis and other diseases — because the drug war blocked and even prohibited treating addiction to certain drugs as a health problem rather than a criminal one.

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