Pubdate: Fri, 24 Jun 2011
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2011 Independent Media Institute
Author: Yolande Cadore, Director, Strategic Partnerships for the Drug 
Policy Alliance.


We Need to Call Out the War on Drugs for What It Really Is -- a War 
on Families and Communities.

"America's public enemy number one in the United States is drug
abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to
wage a new, all-out offensive." These were the words of President
Richard Nixon on June 17th, 1971.

For those of us on the front lines, organizing in America's toughest
neighborhoods, the idea is naive at best. At worst, it's a deliberate
and subtly racist misrepresentation. We are fully aware of the myriad
social ills plaguing communities all across this country, and the
misuse of drugs simply is not the primary concern.

We acknowledge that problematic drug use can have a life changing
effect on individuals and families. But individuals and families
forced to live in degraded indoor and outdoor environments, in
socially neglected communities without viable economic opportunities,
is equally problematic.

On a daily basis, we are confronted with the realities of America's
enemies, including the effects of the lack of affordable housing, the
fate of students attending low performing public schools, the assault
on women's rights, and the ongoing disregard for environmental laws.
These conditions are created and perpetuated by social determinants
that are deeply rooted in a system that is marred by inequities and
injustices, and they deserve the time and attention of our elected
officials. Instead, our resources are disproportionately devoted to a
war on drugs that has proven to exacerbate these very problems.

While our elected officials play politics, thousands more precious 
American lives will be lost to preventable drug overdoses.  Many more 
will contract Hepatitis C and HIV through intravenous drug use. 
Millions of black and brown men and women will have their life 
expectancy reduced due to mass incarceration and economic and social 
marginalization. Scores of families will be needlessly torn 
apart.  Urban and rural communities across the country will be 
destabilized by the violence of drug prohibition. And legislators at 
every level of our government will still be grappling with their 
fiscal nightmares, trying to balance budgets that in years past have 
allocated literally millions of dollars to a failed policy.  It's 
failed to make our neighborhoods any safer, it's failed to provide 
adequate treatment for drug addiction, and it has utterly failed to 
eradicate drugs from our society.

For too long, our drug policy has been framed in the nervous and 
reactionary language of Richard Nixon and his successors, allowing 
policy makers to craft ineffectual yet politically convenient laws. 
As it becomes clearer and clearer that this war cannot be won, they 
are left in a compromising position-- in complete acquiescence to 
those preaching law, order and punishment, yet morally obligated to 
mitigate some of the suffering caused by their own failed policies.

The time is now. Policy makers must be awakened from their political 
amnesia and call to memory the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan-- the 
chaos that can ensue if you enter into a war without a clear exit 
strategy, or cannot muster up the political will to course-correct 
when faced with impending failure.  More importantly, they must 
acknowledge that we will never have a "drug-free" America. There has 
never been and never will be a drug free society.  The only realistic 
expectation is for those who use drugs do so responsibly. Unless our 
drug policy reflects this expectation, we will continue to waste both 
money and human potential.

As we commemorate the 40th anniversary of President Nixon's 
declaration of drug abuse as "America's public enemy number one", I 
appeal to you to challenge this claim.  Close to a trillion dollars 
has been allocated to fight the drug war that could otherwise have 
gone toward repairing our tattered social safety net; by providing 
quality education to our children, and assuring adequate housing and 
food security for our most vulnerable families, among many other things.

If we are to bring about a sea change in American drug policy, it 
will take each and every one of us, and there is no better time than 
now. We have dedicated our lives to fairness, justice and equal human 
rights, and have fought hard to make drug policy more humane, but we 
have not yet successfully characterized the war on drugs as a social 
justice issue. In order to realize a truly just society, we will need 
to re-frame the debate.  We will need to call out the war on drugs 
for what it really is-- a war on families and communities.
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.