Two Democrats in Congress are proposing that the United States concede unconditional surrender in its “War on Drugs,” 50 years after President Richard Nixon declared it.
It’s Reps. Bonnie Coleman, of New Jersey, and Cori Bush, of Missouri who on Tuesday revealed their plans for the “Drug Policy Reform Act,” which would “end criminal penalties for drug possession at the federal level.”
It would also penalize states that still maintain penalties in their state laws.
They claim their plan would eliminate “many of the life-long consequences associated with drug arrests and convictions, including the denial of employment, public benefits, immigration status, drivers’ licenses, and voting rights.”
That illegal drugs have been a scourge for America isn’t in doubt. In recent years there have been many estimates about its cost.
VeryWellMind estimated the annual tab at $193 billion for crime, unemployment, domestic abuse, divorce, homelessness and death, the government estimated 23,000 people die each hear because of drug abuse, the Department of Health and Human Services suggested the “total resource and productivity cost of substance abuse was $510 billion, including $151.4 billion from drug abuse alone.”
But instead of having laws against drugs, American should focus on health treatments, the members of Congress said.
Coleman and Bush were joined by the Drug Policy Alliance in their announcement.
They explained the bill would end criminal penalties for drug possession at the federal level, shift the regulatory authority from the attorney general to the secretary of Health and Human Services, expunge records and provide for resentencing, and reinvest in alternative health-centered approaches.
“Every 23 seconds, a person’s life is ruined for simply possessing drugs. Drug possession remains the most arrested offense in the United States despite the well-known fact that drug criminalization does nothing to help communities, it ruins them. It tears families apart, and causes trauma that can be felt for generations. The drug war has caused mass devastation to Black, Latinx, Indigenous and low-income communities and today we say, ‘Enough is enough!'” was the claim from Queen Adesuyi, a policy manager for the DPA.
“We will not be subjugated any longer by an offensive that was created solely with the purpose of ‘disrupting’ our communities. This bill gives us a way out – a chance to reimagine what the next 50 years can be. It allows us to offer people support instead of punishment. And it gives people who have been harmed by these draconian laws a chance to move forward and embrace some semblance of the life they have long been denied.”
Their strategy to help people addicted to various drugs is to expunge and seal existing criminal records, help those who already are jailed for drug convictions, spend money to provide substance use treatment, ban the denial of employment based on a criminal drug history, prohibit drug testing in order to obtain federal benefits such as housing assistance, disqualify a drug record from being used in an immigration case and ensure that individuals with drug convictions can vote and get drivers’ licenses, and more.
Instead, they want a “Commission on Substance Use, Health and Safety” to report a strategy that would prevent the prosecution of anyone with drugs.
“The United States has not simply failed in how we carried out the War on Drugs – the War on Drugs stands as a stain on our national conscience since its very inception,” noted Coleman. “Begun in 1972 as a cynical political tactic of the Nixon administration, the War on Drugs has destroyed the lives of countless Americans and their families. As we work to solve this issue, it is essential that we change tactics in how we address drug use away from the failed punitive approach and towards a health-based and evidence-based approach.”
Bush claimed blacks are arrested for possession of marijuana three times the rate of their “white counterparts.”
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