Author: Justin Mckibben
For the last few years, if you ask most experts in the field, it has become abundantly clear across the board that the ‘War on Drugs’ has failed us all. By many accounts, the war on drugs declared by President Nixon in 1971 has had a devastating impact on the people and not the problem. Both addicts and average citizens have suffered under this endeavor. Long-term statistic have shown systematic failures in these archaic policies, and despite efforts to stop the supply of drugs coming in, prices of drugs have gone down while purity has gone up.
In the press, the former President Barack Obama persistently spoke out against the failures and misguided strategies of the war on drugs, calling for a reform in policies. This was one of the primary issues on the campaign trail in 2016 as the opioid epidemic raged out of control. The Obama administration launched a concerted effort to reform harsh prison sentences and commute record numbers of non-violent drug offenders.
With Obama, the idea was to create a climate of compassion and support, breaking stigma and trying to give more people the opportunity for rehabilitation while abandoning a system of mandatory minimums that only made matters worse.
Now, however, under the Trump administration the Attorney General Jeff Sessions means to revert back to the war on drugs.
Attorney General’s Memo
Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed an Obama-era policy aimed at keeping non-violent drug offenders out of federal prisons, and received some bipartisan backlash. A memo from Sessions was released last Friday, in which he instructed federal prosecutors nationwide to seek the strongest possible charges and sentences against defendants they target. The memo states:
“It is a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense,”
“This policy fully utilizes the tools Congress has given us. By definition, the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory-minimum sentences.”
Thus, this policy change essentially rejects the Obama-era progress of instructing federal prosecutors to avoid the strictest sentences for defendants charged with low-level drug offenses. This should come to many as no surprise, since Trump and his campaign surrogates were openly supportive of a ‘tough on crime’ and a ‘law and order’ approach to dealing with drug problems.
The bigger picture is, the war on drugs stance has been a waste of resources that ultimately cost far more lives than could have been saved with a more compassionate and connected approach to helping addicts get the help they need.
Jeff Sessions Wants Drug War
There is plenty of evidence to indicate Attorney General Jeff Sessions is all in for continuing the war on drugs. Law enforcement officials report that Sessions and Steven H. Cook, a member of Sessions’ inner circle of the Justice Department, are planning to prosecute more drug and gun cases, and to pursue mandatory minimum sentences.
These same reports indicate that Sessions is very enthusiastic to return to the ‘good old days’ of the 1980s and 1990s at the apex of the drug war. This is the same system that helped exacerbate mass incarceration in America. The war on drugs tore apart countless families and homes across the nation by sending low-level, non-violent drug offenders to prison for longer periods of time. The data later showed this also was a policy that was disproportionately inflicted upon minority citizens.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions insists that this approach is necessary to be tough on crime. This is the same guy quoted for saying things like,
“Good people don’t smoke marijuana”
As if stigma wasn’t already a big enough problem, wait… there’s more. Sessions has also been quoted as saying,
“[the Klu Klux Klan] was okay until I found out they smoked pot”
Advocates for marijuana reform has referred to Sessions as a “drug war dinosaur” and argued that is the last thing this nation needs.
Sessions has gone as far as to say in a speech,
“Psychologically, politically, morally, we need to say — as Nancy Reagan said — ‘Just say no.’ ”
Yes… because we should completely ignore that for over 40 years this injustice has crippled many communities and alienated millions of Americans to the point they would sooner die on the streets than seek help.
Why the War on Drugs Failed
The core problem with the war on drugs strategy was the philosophy that eliminating drugs would eliminate the problem, so the approach was said to focus on wiping out drug supplies and imprisoning traffickers. This may sound pretty cut and dry, but it comply ignores the most basic fundamental of any market; supply and demand.
Reducing the supply without first trying to reduce the demand only drives the price up. The drug market is not price-sensitive. People will continue to use regardless of cost. This new high-price marketplace inspires more traffickers to take more risk for bigger rewards, and the markets continue to grow.
Not only that, but many would say the crimes often associated with drug use are actually caused by the drug war. As purity goes up and the market becomes more competitive, violence among traffickers escalates because of the high demand. According to some, the United States homicide rate is 25% to 75% higher because of the war on drugs.
Sessions’s aides continue to claim that the attorney general does not intend to completely overturn every aspect of criminal justice policy that has changed, but that isn’t all that reassuring at this point when he has already appointed a man to head the revamping of criminal justice who thinks there is no such thing as a non-violent drug offender.
These two politicians have already fought against progressive legislation in the Senate that would have reduced some mandatory minimums and given judges more flexibility with some drug cases. Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), states,
“They are throwing decades of improved techniques and technologies out the window in favor of a failed approach,”
California Senator Kamala Harris served as a prosecutor, district attorney and state attorney general before winning her seat in Congress, and this week Harris attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new sentencing guidelines, stating:
“I saw the War on Drugs up close, and, let me tell you, [it] was an abject failure,”
“It offered taxpayers a bad return on investment,” Harris continued, “It was bad for public safety. It was bad for budgets and our economy. And it was bad for people of color and those struggling to make ends meet.”
Harris urged her fellow progressives in session to fight for more resources to treat addiction, and to elect progressive prosecutors at the state and local level in hopes of fighting back against these counterproductive measures.
In the end, the war on drugs costs millions of dollars annually, while ruining countless lives and making matters worse in essentially every aspect of the issue. Hopefully, this new revival of the war on drugs won’t last.
There should always be hope for a better future. Anyone can make a difference in their own future. Reach out and get the help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
The War on Drugs in America has definitely proven to have been extremely counter-productive to actually saving the lives of Americans and improving the state of the nation concerning addiction, overdose death and other effects caused by drug use. But even with the destruction it has brought, it is nothing compared to the drug war waging in the Philippines today.
New Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is gaining international notoriety for his approach to drugs and addiction… but not in a good way. Duterte campaigned hard on a no-nonsense approach to crime. Today the full force of what this actually entails is incipient, and it is not pretty.
So is this kind of militant approach to dealing with drugs and their dealers a new level of “tough love” or is it outright stigmatic murder?
Picture Tells 1,000 Words
At first having a strict and unyielding strategy to fighting drug dealers and addicts seems pretty common. Some in America have insisted we need to be harder on criminals. Others have even said we should be charging dealers with the murders of addicts who overdose, and this has been met with a great deal of controversy.
Now shocking photographs that are being published in local and international media outlets depict suspected drug dealers dead or captured in the most inhumane ways. Images show people bound hand and foot with their shirts soaked in blood, faces sometimes covered in duct tape, wearing crude signs proclaiming their alleged crimes.
Public executions are now the norm in the Philippine drug war. So one must ask- how did it get this far?
Warnings Were There
Despite the blatant disregard for due process, part of Duterte’s appeal to the electorate is his tough on crime attitude. Duterte has on several occasions openly alluded to the idea that in this drug war he doesn’t oppose his police force killing suspected criminals. But what is worse is that he also alludes to a kind of vigilante justice.
In a nationally televised speech in June, Duterte told citizens,
“If (a criminal) fights, and he fights to the death, you can kill him… Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have the gun … you have my support.”
The insanity of it all is there are countless cases of people murdered in the street by unidentified gunman and labeled drug dealers. Despite the fact that possibly innocent people are dying, he is doubling down on the policy.
However, his administration and police deny the support of vigilante justice. THIS is the madness we are seeing unfold! In one breath Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Martin Andanar said-
“We do not condone these acts,”
Yet, in pretty much the same breath, President Duterte himself says-
“It’s a war, not a crisis. Why should these people live?”
The PNP (Philippines National Police) Chief Ronald dela Rosa claims he will aggressively fight vigilantism, yet these killings are happening every day in this drug war! The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s “Kill List” stands as one of the most accurate records of the killings of suspected drug dealers by police and vigilantes, stating:
- Between the day Duterte assumed office, June 30, and August 1 there have been 465 deaths
- Philippines police say at least 239 drug suspects were killed in the three weeks after Duterte’s inauguration
Probably one of the greatest injustices here is that stigma is circumventing logic in order to dictate policy. It’s the view that drug abuse and addiction, which are a common element of the drug trade, are moral failings. It tells us that all drug dealers and addicts are bad people.
There are seriously so many things wrong with this story I don’t even know where to begin. I’ll elaborate on two specific concerns.
Not everyone who dies is a (proven) dealer
Let’s just pretend that a death sentence for a dealer even made sense. Even if that were the case, a trial should be absolutely mandatory. However, this whole thing has turned into the Salem witch trials. Anyone can be accused of being a dealer and end up dead with no evidence.
Those who are accused and turn themselves in can still face severe punishments if they cannot prove their innocence. It is almost like saying anyone who fits the description can be shot on sight as long as it can be justified later with hearsay…
(… awkward silence…)
Something else that goes overlooked it seems is that gangs can use this to their advantage for eliminating competition without consequences. Gang members can openly kill their rivals and claim it is a community service!
Many dealers are addicts
Remember, when looking at the drug trade, street-level dealers especially are often addicts. So in many cases you may have a young man or woman who has been hopelessly addicted to drugs and is helping sell drugs to support his habit. They get caught on the street and they get killed instead of being given prison, or any chance to change.
Worse- it’s not the police that kill them; it’s their next door neighbor! Stigma will brainwash people into believing that every drug dealer is out to poison people and reap the rewards. The truth is frequently a very different reality.
Look at the way the drug war in the Philippines is evolving into a no-mans-land; at taking the law into your own hands based on speculation and fear-mongering. If we learn anything from this example, it’s that human rights should not be a casualty of a drug war. Innovative and compassionate harm reduction and treatment options are how progressive politicians are trying to save lives here at home. There are always better solutions for substance abuse and addiction. For anyone who is looking for a solution of their own, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
We have seen the cost of the ‘war on drugs’ in America. We have also seen the economy suffer, as the cost of living rises and the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ swells, accompanied by the whispers of crooked deals and executive injustices. Brokers breaking all the rules are like businessmen with bloody hands, and it seems like the stock in human life sinks under the weight of the almighty dollar.
It’s time the focus shifted from hunting down and demoralizing drug addicts, to showing the law goes both ways and CEO’s can become convicts too.
I personally don’t put too much stock in politicians these days, but this Bernie Sanders character is constantly being brought to my attention for having some pretty interesting points of view, and he just made a pretty powerful statement that got me thinking. The presidential candidate has had a sturdy track record of calling out the hypocrisy of the United States ‘war on drugs,’ along with the industrialized and overpopulated prisons, and the criminal justice system.
Most recently, he got my attention when he expressed his opinions on the imbalance and injustice we witness in America as far as punishing people for drugs, while allowing criminals of corporate corruption to continue leaching off the nations limping economy.
War on White-Collar Crime
Just last week the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced new plans to initiate a war on white-collar crime. The DOJ also pledged to finally prosecute those responsible for misconduct on Wall Street, which ultimately poured gas on the fire that created the 2008 financial crisis.
In a memo released last week the DOJ claimed it would pursue action that would hold both corporations and individual employees accountable for the crimes that drove the country into recession, setting new guidelines for addressing corporate crime.
But according to Senator Sanders, from Vermont, it’s a little late for that. And in all reality he may be more right than we think. The law would state that the statute of limitations has already expired for most of the misconduct that took place leading up to the recession back in 2008, which would mean it is not one of those ‘better late than never’ scenarios.
Those with white-collars could be facing stricter penalties, but how much stricter are we really talking? How much of a difference will this memo make? I guess only time will tell.
Sanders Standing Against Stigma
What I see from Sander’s reaction to this announcement is an attempt at exposing the true injustice created by stigma when it comes to drugs and drug addiction, and it speaks to how the general conception is changing in America. Again, a big point he makes is the way we have let executives slip under the radar, and it almost feels like its been hidden behind the smoke screen of drug wars. In a recent statement Sanders stated:
“One of the biggest mistakes our government made after the financial crisis was not prosecuting the people responsible for the greed, recklessness and illegal behavior that crashed our economy and ruined the lives of millions of Americans. It is not acceptable that many young people have criminal records for smoking marijuana, while the CEOs of banks whose illegal behavior helped destroy our economy do not.”
When I first read that, it was actually pretty inspiring stuff. To read a politician say that not only is it not fair, but it is NOT ACCEPTABLE for young people to have criminal records for low-level and non-violent drug offenses… criminal records that could determine the course of the rest of their futures and undermine their potential to contribute to changing the world… while those who deliberately, and ILLEGALLY, drained the life out of our American economy for millions upon billions to line their own pockets can shrug it off and wash their hands of it.
In the years since the climb of the financial crisis a number of banks have pleaded guilty to felony charges, which may seem fair, but individual bankers who were involved in the activity that caused it all have avoided all criminal prosecution. Nothing happened. They admitted to crimes that shook the economy of a country to its core, but don’t even get punished as bad as the average citizen for a minor possession charge?!
To put that in perspective, more than 2.2 million Americans have been put behind bars over the same course of time, and a bewildering percentage of them are serving time that will definitively alter their ability to have a quality of life once released for low-level felonies involving marijuana (which is quickly becoming legalized in several states) and other drugs.
Apparently this isn’t the first time Sanders has took a stand against the drug laws and the way we have addressed drug use in America. Last month he tweeted:
“There is no question that the war on drugs has been a failure.”
That is not too far removed from what current president Barack Obama himself has said about the way the system has worked against the American people who struggle with substance abuse instead of working to improve the lives of these individuals and ultimately their communities.
How can we as a country have any real claim to social consciousness if we aggressively persecute and marginalize people who are suffering from addiction, while allowing thieves in suits selling stocks to live lavishly off the profits of bankrupting the nation… which if you take the time to think about it actually contributes to poverty and desperation; circumstances often leading to drug addiction and other drug related issues.
In a system where the rich and vicious wolves of Wall Street tore apart our financial structure by breaking the laws that govern the worth of the dollar, we should turn our attention toward treating the addicts and the downtrodden instead of punishing them, and we should hold accountable those who orchestrated and profited from the recession that helped create the climate and the culture where addiction was able to thrive.
Addiction destroys lives, and while the war on drugs may have let us down in a lot of ways, there is always hope for a better future. Anyone can make a difference in their own life just by reaching out and getting the help they desperately need. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Many believe that responsible and compassionate work done by police to support harm reduction has the potential not only to improve public health, but to help heal the damaged relationship between police and public in the wake of several hot button incidents and issues that have sparked endless controversy.
Much can be said about the way that prohibition has had its negative impacts, and many believe that the reforms with marijuana are just one example of how overcoming stigma and combatting addiction should begin with taking a lot of the sting out of police tactics. Is harm reduction really the future of the war on drugs?
Authorities Opposing Harm Reduction
The opposition continues to insist that harm reduction programs are counter-productive and promote drug use. These individuals target such programs as ineffective and irresponsible. Initiatives like:
- Syringe exchange
- Supervised injection facilities
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- Heroin-assisted treatment (HAT)
- Distribution of naloxone to reverse overdoses
The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) gathered in San Diego back in 2008 for its 115th annual conference, during which they passed a resolution stating that the IACP-
“strongly opposes ‘harm reduction’ policies and supports law enforcement, prevention, education and treatment policies that result in the rejection of drug use. ”
The IACP further explained that in their opinion the adoption of ‘harm reduction’ policies sends a message, particularly to young people, that drug use is ‘normal’ behavior, and that these types of policies negate the value and effectiveness of law enforcement. This in some ways is an understandable concern. Does providing safe needle exchange and safe injection facilities send the message that the establishment supports drug use? Is drug use ‘normal’?
A LEAP Forward for Harm Reduction Advocates
The organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is a group of criminal justice professionals opposed to the war on drugs. LEAP aims to push the debate and popular opinion in the other direction. What is their opinion? LEAP sees prohibition as part of the problem, because they feel it creates an environment for disease, death and addiction to thrive.
Chief August Vollmer, Berkeley police chief from 1909 to 1923, was president of the IACP, established the first School of Criminology at the University of California at Berkeley (1916), where he introduced a curriculum that emphasized the importance of policing through the application of scientific principles for the benefit of the community and public health. Vollmer once stated:
“Drug addiction, like prostitution and like liquor, is not a police problem; it never has been and never can be solved by policemen. It is first and last a medical problem, and if there is a solution it will be discovered not by policemen, but by scientific and competently trained medical experts whose sole objective will be the reduction and possible eradication of this devastating appetite.”
Vollmer believed that there should be intelligent treatment of addicts in outpatient clinics, and that hospitalization of those not too far gone to respond to therapeutic measures should be utilized.
His views on the relationship between substance abuse, social problems and science, including medication-assisted treatment for opioid addicts, were so derived that now they would be considered harm reduction to prevent crime. Vollmer endorsed a strategy that would have required the government to dispense opioids to those with chronic opioid problems, similarly to what we’ve seen with methadone or suboxone.
The police department in Quincy, Massachusetts actually launched a naloxone program that was originally considered a risky reform, but reports state it has now saved over 300 lives, and is being imitated across the country. The idea of putting naloxone in the hands of the police, who are frequently the first responders at the scene, has ignited a paradigm shift in the war on drugs.
Even the Office of National Drug Policy (ONDCP) has been increasingly using harm reduction language in discussing future drug control strategies. To show that the change is being actively pursued, a few months ago ONDCP actually sent its acting head, Michael Botticelli, to address the national harm reduction conference in Baltimore.
The truth is law enforcement has seen a devastating increase in opioid overdose deaths in recent years, resulting directly from what many call the unregulated drug market. While this is a sad reality, the truth of it has sparked a rush for new innovative measures across the country, with some law enforcement leaders taking daring steps to address the police role in supporting harm reduction.
Supporters believe that harm reduction strategies are focused on the health of both the community and the individual. By taking a holistic approach to problematic drug use, harm reduction advocates claim that abstinence and relapse are part of a complex issue.
Harm reduction supporters also boast a collaboration of drug policy reformers from opposite ends of the argument to push laws designed to prevent drug overdose deaths. The passage of more Good Samaritan and naloxone access laws across the country has contributed to a growing acceptance by law enforcement of its role in surpassing the old patterns and contributing to overcoming stigma for the good of public health and raising awareness.
So the question stands as to whether the continued evolution of ‘harm reduction’ tactics should become the primary strategy. Or should we adopt some of these preventative measures to help keep the communities safe, while still pushing for abstinence based recovery programs that teach addicted individuals the importance of leaving drugs and alcohol out of the picture? Personally I feel that my definition of recovery is more based off abstinence from drugs and alcohol, and not putting Band-Aids over bullet-holes, but I will say that any progress on the front-lines is worth having options as long as lives are being saved.
Addiction and drug abuse have become relevant in every aspect of American life. Police, politicians, educators and community leaders are constantly working together to try and create a change in perspective, that can hopefully inspire a change in the direction of the country. Don’t be another statistic that supports the stigma, get the help that is available to you, it could save your life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free e 1-800-951-6135
The “War on Drugs” may have been made “public enemy number one” in 1971 by then-president Richard Nixon but, the hard stance on anti-drug policies that have been implemented by administration after administration have established an American history deeply entrenched in this idea. Ever since Prohibition in 1914, and even before, there has been a position that we need to “fight” against drugs in this country. Lately, however, there have been signs that a new, progressive way of doing things is taking root. Here are 4 signs that the war on drugs is ending.
#1. The Legalization of Marijuana
Recently, Colorado and Washington State have made history by legalizing recreational marijuana – and the first political jurisdictions anywhere in the world – to approve the legal regulation of marijuana. This is certainly an indication of the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition in the U.S. Alcohol Prohibition repeals began at the state level in the late 1920s, which ultimately led to the repeal of federal Prohibition. In this way, Washington and Colorado are paving the way for change on a national level. It’s noteworthy to mention that 50% of Americans are now in favor of taxing and regulating marijuana.
#2. California Votes to Reform “Three Strikes” Mandatory Minimum Law
Californians are tired of their state’s severe “three strikes” law – and it shows. After nearly 20 years and spending over $20 billion, they voted overwhelmingly to reform the draconian law. Intended to get violent offenders off the street, the law mostly ended up punishing – harshly – those it was not intended to punish. Just as the state set a trend in the 1990s for harsh minimum sentencing laws, it’s possible that their latest, progressive political act will set a new trend across the country.
#3. Harm Reduction Strategies
With the latest macabre trend in drug-related overdoses across the country, states across the nation are opting more and more for what is known as harm reduction solutions. Two effective strategies that are already being enacted in order to reduce overdose deaths are: “911 Good Samaritan” immunity laws, and making available a narcotic antidote.
The 911 Good Samaritan laws make it safe for someone to report a drug overdose or bring someone who is overdosing to the hospital without fear of punishment. This law has now spread to 10 states –California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and Washington State – with many others considering adopting it, too.
The narcotic antidote, naloxone (also known as Narcan) is a drug that, if given in time, shortly after an opiate overdose, can reverse the effects and restore normal breathing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report this year crediting the drug with deterring over 10,000 overdose deaths.
#4. Politicians Are Saying No to the War on Drugs
And they’re winning.
Even though vast majority of Americans seem to know that the war on drugs has failed, it has remained a “third rail” issue among elected officials because they don’t want to seem ‘soft on crime.’ This trend began to wane in 2012 with campaigning politicians speaking out against the drug war and still winning elections.
For example, Beto O’Rourke, a supporter of the legalization of marijuana, defeated eight-term incumbent Sylvestre Reyes in the Democratic primary for Texas’s 16th congressional district. Congressman Reyes was a steadfast supporter of the war on drugs and tried to use O’Rourke’s position on pot as a major issue in campaign – which obviously backfired.
- In the Democratic primary for attorney general in Oregon, Ellen Rosenblum won a (surprising) victory over the favorite, Dwight Holton, in a race during which medical marijuana became a major issue.
- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is known to be eyeing the presidency, supports the decriminalization of marijuana.
- Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel, is also for marijuana decriminalization.
With politicians of this caliber supporting marijuana decriminalization, this is a clear indication that the political stance on the war on drugs is changing.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.