End the 'War on Drugs'

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The Nation

End the 'War on Drugs'

Tomorrow's 40th anniversary of President Nixon's declaration of the War on Drugs comes amid growing recognition that the policy, and all that it wrought, is a complete disaster.

Shifting priorities toward a more sensible approach that offers treatment rather than punishment for addicts may seem like a daunting task but public opinion is increasingly opposed to the war on drugs, and many states facing tight budgets are de-emphasizing expensive criminalization in favor of strategies that decrease the penal population.

As Sasha Abramsky explained in an extensively reported and still-timely 2009 piece, "out of economic necessity and because of shifting mores, the country will likely get more selective, and smarter, about how it uses incarceration and whom it targets for long spells behind bars."

Last week, the Global Commission on Drug Policy issued a report declaring unreservedly: “The global war on drugs has failed.” This strong criticism of the status quo was endorsed by the three former Latin American presidents who organized the commission — Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, César Gaviria of Colombia, and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico — along with 16 other prominent world leaders, including former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former head of NATO Javier Solana, Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.

Meanwhile, in the US, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of police officers, judges and related professionals, held a well-attended DC rally this past Tuesday, citing its own report criticizing the Obama Administration for doing precious little to reframe drug abuse as a matter of public health rather than one of criminal justice. The report calculates that the war on drugs has brought us 40 million arrests at a cost of one trillion dollars without making even a tiny dent in drug use.

The transpartisan coalition of people who want to end the drug war is one of the most diverse, broad-based alliances in America today, drawing from all regions and most spots on the political spectrum. Join the growing call by signing the Drug Policy Alliance's national petition, and by contacting your member of Congress imploring him or her to help end the war on drugs. Drug Policy Alliance staff will hand deliver your letter to your representative on Capitol Hill.

Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg writes the ActNow column for the The Nation. ActNow aims to put readers in touch with creative ways to register informed dissent. Whether it's a grassroots political campaign, a progressive film festival, an antiwar candidate, a street march, a Congressional bill needing popular support or a global petition, ActNow will highlight the outpouring of cultural, political and anti-corporate activism sweeping the planet.

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