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...]

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...]

Michelle Alexander: Sentence Enhancement for Drug Offenders Is a tool of Community Destruction

Ten years ago in Los Angeles, Theresa Martinez was finally making progress in her long, painful struggle against drug addiction and the cycle of incarceration it fueled. But in order to continue her methadone program, she needed $200. Homeless, unemployed, and terrified of falling back into heroin addiction, she tried to get the money the only way she knew: selling drugs. Martinez was arrested for a $5 sale of cocaine, a felony that, absent aggravating factors, carried a three-year prison … [Read more...]

The War on Drugs Isn’t Even Working in Prison

Twice a week, a line of prisoners forms outside the communal bathroom in the education building here at the California State Prison in Los Angeles County. One latex-gloved guard sits at a small desk outside the toilet area, checking identification cards against a computer printout. After confirming you’re on the list, he takes a small piece of cloth, rubs it on one of your hands, and then slips it into a small baggie with your name on it. Another gloved guard looms, holding a small, clear, … [Read more...]

Nixon Advisor Said “War on Drugs” Concocted to Target Blacks

We have known for years that the war on drugs is a war on Black people, their families and their communities. Books such as Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crowhave made a compelling case that through the machinations of the criminal justice system, a new caste system has been created in the U.S., and African-Americans have become the raw materials for mass incarceration.  Now, there is evidence that going after Black people was all by design, that this is how the Nixon administration had … [Read more...]

Leading Medical Experts Call for Drug Policy Overhaul, Including Decriminalizing Drugs and Exploring Legal Regulation

As policymakers weigh “what to do about drugs,” they almost always focus on the potential harms of drugs and almost never on the harms of our drug policies themselves. But earlier today an esteemed group of researchers issued a comprehensive report on public health and international drug policy that documents in meticulous detail the catastrophic health consequences of the global war on drugs. Coming together as Johns Hopkins-Lancet Commission on Drug Policy and Health, twenty-six scientists … [Read more...]

Nancy Reagan’s Role in the Disastrous War on Drugs

Nancy Reagan, the former first lady and widow of President Ronald Reagan died on Sunday in California at age 94. Front pages around the world are remembering her life. The stories all talk about the powerful love between Nancy and Ronald and her impactful role as first lady. When highlighting her advocacy, one of the first things that often pops up is her starring role in President Reagan’s embrace and amplification of the war on drugs. Nancy's "Just Say No" campaign became her signature issue … [Read more...]

Prop. 47, Other Reforms Correctly Prioritize Prevention Over Punishment

When I was a police captain in Inglewood in 1993, the crime rate was more than twice as high as it is today. Concerns about crime created a “lock ’em up” mentality, driving lawmakers to create a system based on incarceration. Between 1984 and 1991 lawmakers passed more than 1,000 new crime bills, many of which increased penalties. Meanwhile, California voters approved the nation’s toughest Three Strikes policy. After spending my entire career in law enforcement and corrections, it’s clear … [Read more...]