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.

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...]

When Heroin Hits the White Suburbs

Heroin use and abuse in America has dramatically increased over the past decade. Between 2006 and 2013, federal records reveal, the number of first-time heroin users doubled, from 90,000 to 169,000. Some of those users, no doubt, already are gone. The Center for Disease Control announced last month that the rate of deadly heroin overdoses nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013. These troubling figures, and a spate of more recent stories and daunting statistics, have prompted officials across … [Read more...]

What Sessions Doesn’t Get: Narcotics Trafficking Is a Market

From the moment he was named Attorney General, Jeff Sessions has signaled his intent to re-start the War on Drugs, using massive federal resources to imprison narcotics traffickers for long terms. His May 10 memo to prosecutors directing them to charge crimes and enhancements based on the harshest potential sentence was simply the formal document declaring that mission. Sessions’ plans ignore one crucial thing: that unlike most crimes, narcotics trafficking works within a market, ruled by the … [Read more...]

Why We Shouldn’t Drug Test Poor People

The Senate Republicans’ stalled effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act is not the only profound threat to our health care system. If Gov. Scott Walker gets his wish, Wisconsin will be the first state that requires adults without children to undergo drug testing if they want to receive Medicaid. Other states could follow his plan. This would tie lifesaving health care benefits to government procedures that force people to submit to degrading invasions of privacy. Of all the ways to help … [Read more...]

How Drug Prohibition Fuels American Carnage

During President Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address, he declared that “in this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” The populist right would do well to apply that formulation to the street violence associated with the drug trade. The War on Drugs is a decades-old federal effort that has failed as consistently and completely as any government initiative in American history. A generation has passed sinceNational Review declared it … [Read more...]

The GOP Healthcare Bill Will Doom Millions of People Struggling with Addiction

"You are only as sick as your secrets,” we say. People in recovery from struggles with addiction know this line by heart. To be open and honest about my years of problematic substance use, and my 4 years of recovery, is key to keeping me alive. This morning, after weeks of backroom drafting and repeated calls for information — sometimes from their own party — the Senate released the text of their healthcare bill, an amended version of the Affordable Health Care Act passed recently in the … [Read more...]

Legal Weed’s No. 1 Warrior Puts Down His Pipe

For drug-policy reformers, it is the best of times, it is the worst of times. Marijuana legalization seems to have hit a tipping point, and even Republicans now regard opioid addiction as a health crisis rather than a criminal one. Yet here comes Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a drug warrior from a generation ago, determined to turn back the clock. There’s no more influential drug-policy reformer than Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, who is stepping down after … [Read more...]

While Jeff Sessions Escalates the War on Drugs, Drug Policy Reform Surges Ahead in California

The Drug Policy Alliance had another successful day in the California state legislature, with two more bills passing through the first house committee, AB 1578 and SB 180. These bills join the agenda with two others bills that passed through their first house committees in preceding weeks. While U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions escalates the war on drugs, drug policy reform surges ahead in California, joining states such as Washington and New York, where similar innovative approaches to … [Read more...]

Do Not Delay: Implement Marijuana Legalization in California

On time and intact implementation of California’s Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, is critical to realizing the benefits of legalization and reducing the harms from decades of prohibition that have resulted in the mass incarceration and criminalization of low-income people of color, and utterly failed to protect public health and public safety. Efficient implementation of Prop. 64 is urgent. While Prop. 64 legalized possession and consumption of cannabis products for adults 21 … [Read more...]