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Weekly Highlights: News from the War on Drugs

Rebecca McCray,
Former Managing Editor,
American Civil Liberties Union
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June 10, 2011

June 2011 marks the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of a “war on drugs” — a war that has cost roughly a trillion dollars, has produced little to no effect on the supply of or demand for drugs in the United States, and has contributed to making America the world’s largest incarcerator. Throughout the month, check back daily for posts about the drug war, its victims and what needs to be done to restore fairness and create effective policy.

U.S. can’t justify its drug war spending, reports say
Two new reports argue that the Obama administration can’t prove the billions of dollars spent on the War on Drugs have actually abated the flow of narcotics into the United States. According to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), “We are wasting tax dollars and throwing money at a problem without even knowing what we are getting in return.”

‘The Wire’ creator hits out at Attorney General
Attorney General Eric Holder is ready to kick back and watch a sixth season of the massively successful HBO drama The Wire, but creator David Simon isn’t eager to address his TV daydreams until our government is “equally ready to reconsider and address its continuing prosecution of our misguided, destructive and dehumanizing drug prohibition.”

It’s time to end the dismally failed ‘war on drugs’
Jesse Jackson makes no bones about it in his call to end the War on Drugs: “It would be impossible to invent a more complete failure.” On this dreadful 40th anniversary, Jackson argues, we must call this war and its many casualties into question.

A step backward in crack cocaine sentencing
Last year’s passage of the Fair Sentencing Act took an important step toward the reformation of one of our country’s most outrageous drug sentencing laws, minimizing (though not abolishing) the unfair disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences. The time has come to consider “those who are serving long, unjustified sentences under the old and now discredited legal regime.”

Medicine and the Epidemic of Incarceration in the United States
This article in The New England Journal of Medicine identifies our country’s punitive rather than rehabilitative response to drug addiction and mental illness as a major cause of the increase in the prison population. Will our government listen to the doctor’s orders?

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