The "War on Drugs," started by President Nixon in the 1970s has undoubtedly had extreme legal and social repercussions. Filmmaker Dream Hampton, the Drug Policy Alliance, and even Jay-Z came together to highlight the failures of the war on drugs, specifically the racial disparities in incarceration. The film, entitled "A History of the War on Drugs: From Prohibition to Gold Rush", begins with a summary of the so-called "tough on crime" Rockefeller Drug Laws of New York. Under these laws, punishment for selling two ounces of cannabis, cocaine, and many other drugs, or merely possessing four ounces of these drugs was a minimum of 15 years in prison, with a maximum of life in prison. Unsurprisingly, the incarceration rates in the state of New York skyrocketed, and the new drug laws inspired many other states to follow.
45 years after the beginning of this "war", the American Civil Liberties Union reports that it has cost the United States one trillion dollars, but has had almost no effects on the rates of possessing or selling of drugs. The ACLU also states what this war actually has become, and frankly always has been, and that is "a war on communities of color". The fact is that white and black communities use drugs at pretty much the same rates, yet black people are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana, and ten times more likely to be jailed for drug charges. One in three black men can statistically expect to be incarcerated in their lifetime. One in seventeen white men can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetime (ACLU). See the problem?
In my home state of Florida alone, 130,296 people are arrested for drug offenses every year. And while our population is only 16.5% black, black people make up 50% of the drug arrests in the state. Florida, as well as the rest of the country, should be working to reduce the harm associated with drugs and reform how the selling and possession of drugs are handled by the criminal justice system. Instead, Florida does not provide any access to clean syringes, does not allow marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, and puts countless people in jail, frequently after being racially targeted.
While I personally believe marijuana should be legal, I am in no way in support of drugs like cocaine, heroine, and the likes. What I am in support of is the end of the horrendous racism in our criminal justice system. As stated in Dream Hampton's short film, the US incarcerates more people than China, Russia, and Cuba, all countries that the US thinks are autocratic and oppressive. Don't you see what is wrong with that statement?