White House talking Griner illegally detained in Russia, is weed legal in the USA? Asking for a friend ...

The war on drugs is a global campaign, led by the U.S. federal government, of drug prohibition, military aid, and military intervention, with the aim of reducing the illegal drug trade in the United States. The initiative includes a set of drug policies that are intended to discourage the production, distribution, and consumption of psychoactive drugs that the participating governments and the UN have made illegal. The term was popularized by the media shortly after a press conference given on June 18, 1971, by President Richard Nixon—the day after publication of a special message from President Nixon to the Congress on Drug Abuse Prevention and Control—during which he declared drug abuse "public enemy number one". That message to the Congress included text about devoting more federal resources to the "prevention of new addicts, and the rehabilitation of those who are addicted" but that part did not receive the same public attention as the term "war on drugs". Two years prior to this, Nixon had formally declared a "war on drugs" that would be directed toward eradication, interdiction, and incarceration.[14] In 2015, the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for an end to the War on Drugs, estimated that the United States spends $51 billion annually on these initiatives, and in 2021, after 50 years of the drug war, others have estimated that the US has spent a cumulative $1 trillion on it.

On May 13, 2009, Gil Kerlikowske—the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)—signaled that the Obama administration did not plan to significantly alter drug enforcement policy, but also that the administration would not use the term "War on Drugs", because Kerlikowske considers the term to be "counter-productive". ONDCP's view is that "drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated... making drugs more available will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe".

In June 2011, the Global Commission on Drug Policy released a critical report on the War on Drugs, declaring: "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and years after President Nixon launched the US government's war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed." The report was criticized by organizations that oppose a general legalization of drugs.
Biden passed the legislation that toughened the War on Drugs that disproportionately targeted minority populations in the inner cities, and Harris prosecuted those laws.

Last we checked, millions of black, brown and poor people were locked up under the War on Drugs, and many are still incarcerated. Today those same people are talking about the injustice of someone who smuggles hashish oil into a foreign country. It makes one wonder, if this is more political pandering to special interests during an election season.

War on Drugs

(Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994)


The war on drugs thus offers seamless continuity with the most shameful episodes of our past. Slaves were bound in plantations from which they could not escape. Now, it is prisons that deprive black men of their freedom. For African-American men between the ages of 20 and 29, almost one in three are currently under the thumb of the criminal justice system. ( Jan M. Chaiken, ""Crunching Numbers: Crime and Incarceration at the End of the Millennium,"" National Institute of Justice Journal, January 2000, p. 14. )


Race, Mass Incarceration, and the Disastrous War on Drugs

Unravelling decades of racially biased anti-drug policies is a monumental project.

by Nkechi Taifa

May 10, 2021

This essay is part of the Bren­nan Center’s series examin­ing the punit­ive excess that has come to define Amer­ica’s crim­inal legal system.

I have a long view of the crim­inal punish­ment system, having been in the trenches for nearly 40 years as an activ­ist, lobby­ist, legis­lat­ive coun­sel, legal scholar, and policy analyst. So I was hardly surprised when Richard Nixon’s domestic policy advisor John Ehrlich­man revealed in a 1994 inter­view that the “War on Drugs” had begun as a racially motiv­ated crusade to crim­in­al­ize Blacks and the anti-war left.

“We knew we could­n’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to asso­ci­ate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin and then crim­in­al­iz­ing them both heav­ily, we could disrupt those communit­ies. We could arrest their lead­ers, raid their homes, break up their meet­ings, and vilify them night after night in the even­ing news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did,” Ehrlich­man said.

Before the War on Drugs, expli­cit discrim­in­a­tion — and for decades, overtly racist lynch­ing — were the primary weapons in the subjug­a­tion of Black people. Then mass incar­cer­a­tion, the gradual progeny of a number of congres­sional bills, made it so much easier. Most notably, the 1984 Compre­hens­ive Crime Control and Safe Streets Act elim­in­ated parole in the federal system, result­ing in an upsurge of geri­at­ric pris­on­ers. Then the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act estab­lished mandat­ory minimum senten­cing schemes, includ­ing the infam­ous 100-to-1 ratio between crack and powder cocaine sentences. Its expan­sion in 1988 added an overly broad defin­i­tion of conspir­acy to the mix. These laws flooded the federal system with people convicted of low-level and nonvi­ol­ent drug offenses.

During the early 1990s, I walked the halls of Congress lobby­ing against vari­ous omni­bus crime bills, which culmin­ated in the grand­daddy of them all — the Viol­ent Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1994. This bill featured the largest expan­sion of the federal death penalty in modern times, the gutting of habeas corpus, the evis­cer­a­tion of the exclu­sion­ary rule, the trying of 13-year-olds as adults, and 100,000 new cops on the streets, which led to an explo­sion in racial profil­ing. It also included the elim­in­a­tion of Pell educa­tional grants for pris­on­ers, the imple­ment­a­tion of the federal three strikes law, and monet­ary incent­ives to states to enact “truth-in-senten­cing” laws, which subsid­ized an astro­nom­ical rise in prison construc­tion across the coun­try, lengthened the amount of time to be served, and solid­i­fied a mental­ity of mean­ness.

The prevail­ing narrat­ive at the time was “tough on crime.” It was a narrat­ive that caused then-candid­ate Bill Clin­ton to leave his pres­id­en­tial campaign trail to over­see the execu­tion of a mentally chal­lenged man in Arkan­sas. It was the same narrat­ive that brought about the crack­–­powder cocaine dispar­ity, suppor­ted the trans­fer of youth to adult courts, and popular­ized the myth of the Black child as “super­pred­ator.”

With the prolif­er­a­tion of mandat­ory minimum sentences during the height of the War on Drugs, unne­ces­sar­ily lengthy prison terms were robot­ic­ally meted out with callous aban­don. Shock­ingly severe sentences for drug offenses — 10, 20, 30 years, even life impris­on­ment — hardly raised an eyebrow. Trau­mat­iz­ing sentences that snatched parents from chil­dren and loved ones, destabil­iz­ing famil­ies and communit­ies, became common­place.

Such punish­ments should offend our soci­ety’s stand­ard of decency. Why haven’t they? Most flab­ber­gast­ing to me was the Supreme Court’s 1991 decision assert­ing that mandat­ory life impris­on­ment for a first-time drug offense was not cruel and unusual punish­ment. The rationale was ludicrous. The Court actu­ally held that although the punish­ment was cruel, it was not unusual.

The twis­ted logic reminded me of another Supreme Court case that had been decided a few years earlier. There, the Court allowed the execu­tion of a man — despite over­whelm­ing evid­ence of racial bias — because of fear that the floodgates would be opened to racial chal­lenges in other aspects of crim­inal senten­cing as well. Essen­tially, this ruling found that lengthy sentences in such cases are cruel, but they are usual. In other words, systemic racism exists, but because that is the norm, it is there­fore consti­tu­tional.

In many instances, laws today are facially neut­ral and do not appear to discrim­in­ate inten­tion­ally. But the dispar­ate treat­ment often built into our legal insti­tu­tions allows discrim­in­a­tion to occur without the need of overt action. These laws look fair but never­the­less have a racially discrim­in­at­ory impact that is struc­tur­ally embed­ded in many police depart­ments, prosec­utor’s offices, and courtrooms.

Since the late 1980s, a combin­a­tion of federal law enforce­ment policies, prosec­utorial prac­tices, and legis­la­tion resul­ted in Black people being dispro­por­tion­ately arres­ted, convicted, and imprisoned for posses­sion and distri­bu­tion of crack cocaine. Five grams of crack cocaine — the weight of a couple packs of sugar — was, for senten­cing purposes, deemed the equi­val­ent of 500 grams of powder cocaine; both resul­ted in the same five-year sentence. Although house­hold surveys from the National Insti­tute for Drug Abuse have revealed larger numbers of docu­mented white crack cocaine users, the over­whelm­ing number of arrests nonethe­less came from Black communit­ies who were dispro­por­tion­ately impacted by the facially neut­ral, yet illo­gic­ally harsh, crack penal­ties.

For the system to be just, the public must be confid­ent that at every stage of the process — from the initial invest­ig­a­tion of crimes by police to the prosec­u­tion and punish­ment of those crimes — people in like circum­stances are treated the same. Today, however, as yester­day, the crim­inal legal system strays far from that ideal, caus­ing African Amer­ic­ans to often ques­tion, is it justice or “just-us?”

Fortu­nately, the tough-on-crime chorus that arose from the War on Drugs is disap­pear­ing and a new narrat­ive is devel­op­ing. I sensed the begin­ning of this with the 2008 Second Chance Reentry bill and 2010 Fair Senten­cing Act, which reduced the dispar­ity between crack and powder cocaine. I smiled when the 2012 Supreme Court ruling in Miller v. Alabama came out, which held that mandat­ory life sentences without parole for chil­dren viol­ated the Eighth Amend­ment’s prohib­i­tion against cruel and unusual punish­ment. In 2013, I was delighted when Attor­ney General Eric Holder announced his Smart on Crime policies, focus­ing federal prosec­u­tions on large-scale drug traf­fick­ers rather than bit play­ers. The follow­ing year, I applauded Pres­id­ent Obama’s exec­ut­ive clem­ency initi­at­ive to provide relief for many people serving inor­din­ately lengthy mandat­ory-minimum sentences. Despite its fail­ure to become law, I celeb­rated the Senten­cing Reform and Correc­tions Act of 2015, a care­fully nego­ti­ated bipar­tisan bill passed out of the Senate Judi­ciary Commit­tee in 2015; a few years later some of its provi­sions were incor­por­ated as part of the 2018 First Step Act. All of these reforms would have been unthink­able when I first embarked on crim­inal legal system reform.

But all of this is not enough. We have exper­i­enced nearly five decades of destruct­ive mass incar­cer­a­tion. There must be an end to the racist policies and severe sentences the War on Drugs brought us. We must not be content with piece­meal reform and baby-step progress.

Indeed, rather than steps, it is time for leaps and bounds. End all mandat­ory minimum sentences and invest in a health-centered approach to substance use disorders. Demand a second-look process with the presump­tion of release for those serving life-without-parole drug sentences. Make sentences retro­act­ive where laws have changed. Support categor­ical clem­en­cies to rectify past injustices.

It is time for bold action. We must not be satis­fied with the norm, but work toward insti­tu­tion­al­iz­ing the demand for a stand­ard of decency that values trans­form­at­ive change.

Nkechi Taifa is pres­id­ent of The Taifa Group LLC, convener of the Justice Roundtable, and author of the memoir, Black Power, Black Lawyer: My Auda­cious Quest for Justice.



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