The War on Drugs is a Racist War on People

Since its inception in the early 1970s, the War on Drugs has been a controversial and heavily debated issue in the United States and the United Kingdom.

It is a government-led initiative aimed at reducing the production, distribution, and consumption of illegal drugs.

However, despite the purported goal of combating drug abuse, the War on Drugs has had a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities, particularly communities of color.

The War on Drugs has become a war on people, and racist policing practices exacerbate the problem, particularly with respect to cannabis laws.

“The War on Drugs (first so named by President Richard Nixon) has targeted lower income Black and Brown people thru over policing, discriminatory prosecution, and discriminatory sentencing…That’s why despite using pot at the same rate, Black people are 4 times more likely to be arrested than Whites.”

Ben and Jerry’s! founder

The War on People

The War on Drugs has led to a significant increase in incarceration rates in the United States.

From 1980 to 2015, the number of people imprisoned for drug offenses skyrocketed from 40,900 to 469,545, an increase of over 1000%.

The vast majority of those arrested and incarcerated for drug offenses are nonviolent, low-level offenders.

As a result, the War on Drugs has had a devastating effect on the lives of countless individuals and families, particularly those in communities of color.

Racial Disparities in Drug Arrests and Incarceration

Numerous studies have demonstrated the stark racial disparities that exist in drug arrests and incarceration rates.

Despite similar rates of drug use among various racial and ethnic groups, Black and Hispanic individuals are disproportionately arrested and incarcerated for drug offenses.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Black people are 3.73 times more likely than white people to be arrested for cannabis possession, even though both groups use cannabis at similar rates.

Cannabis Laws as a Tool for Racist Policing

In the United States, cannabis remains a Schedule I substance under federal law, meaning it is classified as having a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

This classification, combined with inconsistent state-level legalization, has provided law enforcement with a powerful tool to target communities of color.

Racist police officers can easily exploit the ambiguity surrounding cannabis laws to harass, arrest, and incarcerate people of color disproportionately.

They may use the mere suspicion of cannabis possession as a pretext for stopping, searching, or arresting individuals

This practice, known in the UK as “stop-and-search,” (“stop and frisk” in the US) has been universally criticized for its racial bias, as people of color are disproportionately targeted and subjected to invasive searches.

Here is the government data that shows just that:

In the UK, like the US, black people are searched way more than whites

In the US the ‘War on Drugs’ has also incentivized police departments to prioritize drug enforcement over other forms of policing, often at the expense of community safety.

This has led to an over-policing of communities of color, further exacerbating tensions and mistrust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

Prohibition of cannabis is nonsense

Locking people up for using or possessing a beneficial herb like cannabis is both immoral and counterproductive for several reasons.

These reasons include the potential medicinal properties of the herb, the negative impact of incarceration on individuals and society, and the potential for alternative, more effective approaches to drug policy.

Medicinal properties of cannabis

Scientific research has demonstrated that cannabis has various medicinal properties that can be beneficial for people suffering from certain medical conditions.

These benefits include pain relief, alleviating symptoms of multiple sclerosis, reducing nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients, and managing anxiety and sleep disorders, among others.

Criminalising and incarcerating individuals for using a substance that has potential therapeutic value is both unjust and morally wrong.

Negative impact of incarceration

Incarceration can have profound and long-lasting negative effects on individuals and their families. Imprisoning people for nonviolent drug offences, such as cannabis possession, disrupts families and communities, leading to a loss of income, housing, and emotional support.

On top of that, having a criminal record can significantly hinder an individual’s ability to secure employment, housing, and educational opportunities.

These consequences perpetuate cycles of poverty and disadvantage, disproportionately impacting marginalised communities.

Ineffectiveness of punitive drug policies

Punitive drug policies, like the War on Drugs, have proven to be largely ineffective in reducing drug use and addiction rates.

Instead, they have contributed to mass incarceration, racial disparities in arrests and imprisonment, and a general distrust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

Alternative approaches to drug policy, such as decriminalisation, harm reduction, and evidence-based treatment programs, have been shown to be more effective in addressing substance abuse and addiction issues without the same negative social consequences.

Misallocation of resources

The resources dedicated to enforcing cannabis laws and incarcerating individuals for possession or use could be better allocated to address more pressing public safety concerns or to fund public health initiatives.

By diverting funds from drug enforcement to prevention, treatment, and harm reduction programs, society could achieve better outcomes in terms of public health and safety while reducing the human and financial costs associated with incarceration.

As this genteman correctly points out, you can’t find a policeman in the UK, unless of course you get out some beneficial herbs in public then hundreds of them appear like rabied dogs.

Devastating Consequences

The War on Drugs has had devastating consequences for marginalised communities both in the United States and UK.

Racial disparities in drug arrests and incarceration rates have led to the destruction of families and communities of colour.

It is clear that the War on Drugs is not a war on substances but, in reality, a war on people.

To rectify this issue, it is crucial that we urgently reevaluate and reform our drug policies and work to eliminate this systemic racism embedded in our criminal justice systems.

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