By Bill Piper, Drug Policy Alliance
The Obama administration is trying to pull the wool over your eyes. They’ve said the drug war is over and have spoken out in favor of an evidence-based approach. But nothing has changed. The drug war rages on and people are still being arrested and sent to prison at alarming rates.
Criminalizing people who use drugs is harmful to our health and safety. It decreases access to treatment while increasing overdose deaths, prohibition-related violence and the spread of HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne diseases.
Although the Obama administration claims they approach drug use as a health issue, they continue to punish and imprison people who use drugs at similar rates as before Obama took office.
Drug decriminalization would remove criminal penalties for people who use drugs and replace arrests and prison with evidence-based health policies that prevent disease, save lives, and encourage treatment for those who want it. Marijuana possession arrests, in particular, are the engine driving the war on drugs. Simply ending criminal penalties for marijuana use would be a significant step toward a health approach.
As someone who believes the war on drugs has failed, you know we can’t continue to put lives and public health in jeopardy. And we can’t afford to arrest more than a million-and-a-half people every year for nonviolent drug offenses.
The fact that the Obama administration has toned down the drug war rhetoric shows that we’re making an impact. But actions speak louder than words. That’s why you need to turn up the pressure on Obama to start practicing what he preaches.