Drug Policy

What Michelle Alexander calls the “roundup” of youth of color rests very heavily on arrests for low-level nonviolent drug possession. Although whites use drugs at roughly the same levels, the people who are picked up and sent to jail for drug use are overwhelmingly people of color, African Americans in particular. To stop the roundup we need to reform the drug laws and also bar racist law enforcement that selectively targets some communities and not others.

How Do You Clear a Pot Conviction From Your Record?

It depends on where you live. (Californians, you’re in luck.) ddy, a burly 65-year-old professional musician, walked into a free legal clinic in Los Angeles County one July morning hoping to clear his record. More than three decades ago, he served two years probation for attempting to sell a few gram bags of marijuana, a felony that put the immigrant, a legal U.S. resident with a green card, at greater risk of deportation. Thanks to Proposition 64, the California ballot initiative that … [Read more...]

Law Clinics Offer “Second Chance”

Tim Gee woke before dawn Saturday and donned a black three-piece suit with crimson tie. The Las Vegas resident then flew to Los Angeles, home to a past that still haunts him. Hours later, he stood holding a FedEx envelope full of documents, waiting with dozens of other convicted felons seeking free legal assistance at a special clinic near downtown Los Angeles in getting their charges reduced, dismissed or expunged from their criminal records. More than 25 years ago, Gee was arrested for … [Read more...]

Why Is the Opioid Epidemic Overwhelmingly White?

The opioid epidemic is ravaging large parts of the American population. But some races are being hit harder than others. Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a drug abuse expert, explains why that might be the case. NOEL KING, HOST: An opioid epidemic is ravaging parts of this country. President Trump has declared it a public health emergency. Last year, overdoses killed some 64,000 people. It's being compared to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and '90s. The face of the opioid epidemic has been mostly … [Read more...]

Why You Shouldn’t Ask LA’s New Pot Czar If She Smokes

When the phone guy at Los Angeles City Hall went to set up Cat Packer's phone line, he wondered if the assignment was a prank. Like a lot of people, he was a bit surprised to learn that the city actually has a new pot czar. "Pot czar" is not what it says on Packer's business card — her official title is executive director of Los Angeles' new Department of Cannabis Regulation. The 26-year-old said her interest in the intersection between policy and pot dates back to a class she took on … [Read more...]

How Legalized Pot Can Make up for the Disastrous War on Drugs

When recreational cannabis becomes legal in California on Jan. 2, part of the focus — in Los Angeles, at any rate — will be on “social equity.” That’s the term for a set of guidelines meant to spread legalization’s wealth to neighborhoods that have gotten the worst of the drug wars. According to draft legislation currently moving through the City Council, for every general license approved for a pot shop, one license must also be approved for social equity reasons. I’m fully in favor of … [Read more...]

Drug Dealers in Lab Coats

For decades, America has waged an ineffective war on drug pushers and drug lords, from Bronx street corners to Medellin, Colombia, regarding them as among the most contemptible specimens of humanity. One reason our efforts have failed is we ignored the biggest drug pushers of all: American pharmaceutical companies. Our policy was: You get 15 people hooked on opioids, and you’re a thug who deserves to rot in hell; you get 150,000 people hooked, and you’re a marketing genius who deserves a … [Read more...]

10 Reasons to End Wars on Drugs and Sex Workers

The real lived experiences of drug users and of sex workers are underrepresented and widely misunderstood. ex and drugs are two of the most controversial and intensely charged topics in American culture, and the connection between them extends far beyond their shared association with the hedonistic impulse. Sex and drugs can be powerful ways to alter consciousness, to facilitate surrender, to heal and to reconnect. But there’s yet another important link to be made between the two: the … [Read more...]

Police Fueling Increased Overdoses, HIV Transmission, Viral Hepatitis

Pvery day there is a new headline highlighting the devastating effects of the current opioid crisis on individuals and their communities – from record overdoses to widespread transmission of hepatitis C. This has started a dialogue, urging public officials to treat drug use as a medical issue rather than a criminal one. States across the U.S. are responding to this as a public health matter – passing 911 Good Samaritan and naloxone access laws, opening of syringe exchanges, and increasing access … [Read more...]

The New War on Drugs

Not every state is responding to the opioid epidemic with just public health policies Gov. Matt Bevin had a promise for Kentuckians in his State of the Commonwealth speechin February: “Criminal justice reform is coming.” It’s something Bevin had long pledged. In 2016, Bevin set up a panel to study criminal justice reform. In an op-ed for the Washington Times that year, Bevin touted legislation that lets some former inmates expunge their records. “The practice of ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the … [Read more...]

The War on Drugs Never Ended

It will be up to thousands of state and local prosecutors to kill it once and for all. n a memo circulated in May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed federal prosecutors to seek the maximum penalty possible in every case. He didn’t single out any particular crimes for harsh sentencing, indicating that all offenses—including simple drug possession—should be punished in the harshest allowable manner. Sessions later defended the decision in a Washington Post opinion piece, arguing that a … [Read more...]