To understand the modern-day consequences of racist anti-drug policies, we have to go back to June 1971 when the war on drugs began. It was in June of 1971 that President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse to be “public enemy number one.”
Shortly after this declaration, Nixon increased federal funding to fight newly created drug crimes. He then established the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 1973. The DEA oversees laws on all drugs, including marijuana, which is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance alongside heroin and meth.
What were the motivations behind the war on drugs?
The motivations behind the war on drugs were multifaceted. On the surface, it was presented as a response to the rising drug abuse problem in the United States. However, there were underlying political and social factors at play as well.
In 1994, Nixon's advisor, John Ehrlichman, revealed that the former president's real “public enemy number one” wasn't illicit drugs, but Black people. Ehrlichman admitted that the war on drugs was a deliberate effort to target and disrupt Black communities and their political power.
How did the war on drugs impact communities?
The war on drugs had a devastating impact on communities, particularly communities of color. The policies implemented during this time led to mass incarceration, disproportionately affecting Black and Brown individuals.
Harsh sentencing laws, such as mandatory minimums, resulted in nonviolent drug offenders receiving lengthy prison sentences. This not only tore families apart but also perpetuated a cycle of poverty and limited opportunities for those who were incarcerated.
What are the modern-day consequences of the war on drugs?
The war on drugs continues to have lasting consequences. Despite evidence showing the medicinal benefits of marijuana and calls for its legalization, it remains classified as a Schedule I controlled substance.
This classification not only hinders scientific research but also perpetuates racial disparities in drug-related arrests and convictions. Black individuals are still disproportionately targeted and arrested for drug offenses, despite similar rates of drug use among different racial groups.
What steps are being taken to address the issues caused by the war on drugs?
There is a growing recognition of the need to address the injustices caused by the war on drugs. Efforts are being made to reform drug policies and reduce the reliance on incarceration as a solution to drug-related issues.
Some states have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, acknowledging its potential medical benefits and the need to address racial disparities in drug enforcement. Additionally, there is a push for criminal justice reform to address the disproportionate impact of drug policies on marginalized communities.
While progress is being made, there is still much work to be done to rectify the damage caused by the war on drugs and create a more equitable and just society.