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Jeff Sessions Continues the Failing War on Drugs

Jeff Sessions Continues Failing War on Drugs

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.

Opposing Ideas

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

President Obama Speaks Out About Failing War on Drugs

President Obama Speaks Out About Failing War on Drugs

Author: Justin Mckibben

So as much as I personally like to stay out of politics, this information interested me about the way some of our most powerful politicians feel about the growing issue in America with our War on Drugs and whether some believe it has so far been a failed endeavor.

There have been reports that even our commander and chief of the nation has continued to speak out against some of the policies he feels are most counterproductive in the search for a resolution to the drug crisis.

Speaking Out

In the press, President Barack Obama is persistent in trying to speak out against the war on drugs, and the president has also made a call for a reform in policies.

In a new YouTube interview, Obama made statements that he believes by treating drug use as a criminal problem, it is being “counterproductive” to the real issue. President Obama went even further by saying that nonviolent drug offenders should be receiving drug and alcohol treatment to help solve the problem, instead of sentencing them to jail time which only prolongs the suffering.

Pushing for Progress

Obama has been in the new several times in the last year alone for his efforts to change the way that drug law policies are enforced. Recently those actions have included:

  • Asking policymakers at all levels of government to evaluate ways to reduce the number of people currently incarcerated
  • Working with the Department of Education to reduce “zero tolerance” discipline policies regarding drugs
  • Supporting efforts in Congress to reduce punitive sentencing

Obama was also in the public eye when he restated his stance that the federal government will not interfere with the legal marijuana industry in states that have permitted it. While he was not making any indication of supporting legalized marijuana for the entire country, he did show support for states like Washington and Colorado.

“We still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but we’re not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue. What I am doing at the federal level is asking my Department of Justice just to examine generally how we are treating nonviolent drug offenders. Instead of focusing on treatment, we’ve treated this exclusively as a criminal problem. It’s been counterproductive and it has been devastating in a lot of minority communities.”

So although the president did not in any capacity make moves toward legalizing marijuana at the federal level, Obama did however make headlines in January of 2013 by stating in another interview that he didn’t believe marijuana was more dangerous than alcohol.

Opinion on Prison

It seems that Obama’s biggest concern with current policy is that too many people are being put into a criminal system for possessing or consuming illicit substances, and that being sentenced to long terms of prison for nonviolent drug offenses is wasting an opportunity for real reform. He has recently been pushing for more utilization of ‘drug court’ policies for people using drugs.

The president has even admitted to using marijuana in his younger years, but he calls it “a bad idea.” He expressed concern and said he was troubled that poor kids, many of them African Americans and Latinos, are far more likely to get locked up for smoking marijuana than middle-class kids. However the president does suggest a more cautious approach, saying people who think legalizing weed will solve social problems are “probably overstating the case.”

The Obama administration requested over $10.7 billion back in 2013 to help support drug education programs across the nation, as well as to increase treatment availability. The president also made amendments to the Affordable Care Act which required insurance companies to cover treatment for substance abuse disorders, so to that extent it seems that Obama means what he says when he talks about shifting the focus to treatment instead of punishment.

Some people however feel this is not enough of a public health approach. Critics believe that while it may make some difference, it is still lacking the versatility that could be achieved by putting more efforts toward harm reduction policies. Many speculate that 2015 will be a big year for harm reduction, so maybe as these things change and policy remains a bigger issue, we will see a more flexible perspective.

Not everyone agrees with the way the War on Drugs has worked out, and far too many people have lost their lives as part of that statistic, but what we can all agree on is the need for change and the importance of getting the people who need it the right treatment to save their lives. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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