#442 Battle Of Words In The War On Drugs

Date: Wed, 21 Jul 2010
Subject: #442 Battle Of Words In The War On Drugs



DrugSense FOCUS Alert #442 – Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

The Miami Herald’s syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts column below has
been printed in various newspapers as you may see at

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Bishop Ron Allen probably thinks Alice Huffman has been smoking

Huffman, president of the California Conference of the NAACP, recently
declared support for an initiative that, if passed by voters in
November, will decriminalize the use and possession of marijuana.
Huffman sees it as a civil rights issue.

In response, Allen, founder of the International Faith-Based
Coalition, a religious social activism group, has come out swinging.
“Why would the state NAACP advocate for blacks to stay high?” he
demanded this month at a news conference in Sacramento. “It’s going to
cause crime to go up. There will be more drug babies.” Allen wants
Huffman to resign.

But Huffman is standing firm, both in resisting calls for her head and
in framing this as an issue of racial justice. There is, she notes, a
pronounced racial disparity in the enforcement of marijuana laws.
She’s right, of course. For that matter, there is a disparity in the
enforcement of drug laws, period.

In 2007, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, 9.5
percent of blacks (about 3.6 million people) and 8.2 percent of whites
(about 16 million) older than 12 reported using some form of illicit
drug in the previous month. Yet though there are more than “four
times” as many white drug users as black ones, blacks represent better
than half those in state prison on drug charges, according to The
Sentencing Project. The same source says that though two-thirds of
regular crack users are white or Latino, 82 percent of those sentenced
in federal court for crack crimes are black. In some states, black men
are jailed on drug charges at a rate 50 times higher than whites.

And so on.

So while the bishop hyperventilates about blacks “staying” high (?),
he ignores a clearer and more present danger. As Michelle Alexander
argues in her book The New Jim Crow, those absurd sentencing rates,
combined with laws making it legal to discriminate against even
nonviolent former felons in hiring, housing and education, constitute
nothing less than a new racial caste system.

Allen worries about a baby being born addicted to pot, but the
likelier scenario is that she will be born to a father unable to
secure a job so he can support her, an apartment for her to live in or
an education so he can better himself for her — all because he got
caught with a joint 10 years ago.

It is a cruel and ludicrous predicament.

And apparently Huffman, like a growing number of cops, judges, DEA
agents, pundits and even conservative icons like the late William F.
Buckley Jr. and Milton Friedman, has decided to call the war on drugs
what it is: a failure. It is time to find a better way, preferably one
that emphasizes treatment over incarceration.

You’d think that would be a no-brainer.

We have spent untold billions of dollars, ruined untold millions of
lives and racked up the highest incarceration rate in the world to
fight drug use. Yet we saw casual drug use “rise” by 2,300 percent
between 1970 and 2003, according to Law Enforcement Against
Prohibition, an advocacy group. And as drug use skyrocketed, we find
that we have moved the needle on “addiction” not even an inch, up or

All we have managed, and at a ruinous cost, is to relearn the lesson
of 1933, when alcohol Prohibition ended: You cannot jail or punish
people out of wanting what they want.

I’ve never used drugs. I share Allen’s antipathy toward them. But it
seems silly and self-defeating to allow that reflexive antipathy to
bind us to the same strategy that has failed for 30 years.

By now, one thing should be obvious about our war on

Drugs won.


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Prepared by: Richard Lake www.mapinc.org