In jurisdictions throughout the U.S., we’ve seen progressive coverage reforms to decriminalize and legalize marijuana, scale back penalties for different medicine, and transfer towards a public well being method to drug use. But, as drug arrests nonetheless stay excessive and overdose deaths proceed to rise, it’s clear that our combat is way from over. Collectively, we have to be bolder and extra imaginative in creating the insurance policies that may assist us save lives, obtain racial fairness, and in the end construct the world all of us need to reside in.
Whereas marijuana legalization and drug coverage reforms are an ideal first step, these alone can’t finish all racist policing and drug enforcement on this nation. Over the previous a number of a long time, numerous states have decreased the overall variety of individuals arrested or incarcerated for drug offenses. Nonetheless, there are nonetheless extra drug arrests yearly in the USA than for all different offenses, with marijuana possession because the leading driver. And this continues to disproportionately influence Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people who find themselves nonetheless arrested at much higher rates than White people regardless of related charges of drug use. Drug coverage reforms take away many incentives for drug enforcement, however systemic and structural racial disparities in our felony authorized system will stay, which is why it’s crucial for reformers to be part of broader policing actions.
Whilst drug legal guidelines turn into extra progressive, the drug struggle stays rooted in quite a few techniques which contact each single one in every of us each day. The drug struggle has taken root in varied techniques–together with immigration, little one welfare, public advantages, training, employment, and housing–we work together with each day and made them the frontlines of enforcement. In 2019, ICE brokers arrested one person every eight minutes on a drug charge. Healthcare suppliers in Washington state are significantly more likely to subject their Black pregnant patients to drug tests. And the foster system remains “ground zero” for the drug war. So long as the drug struggle is embedded in these techniques, it would proceed to widen the web and topic extra individuals to criminalization, which is why this work is central to ending the drug struggle and constructing our different actuality.
Marijuana was place to begin for reforms, however we should look past particular person drug class campaigns. Marijuana coverage reform was a logical first step for optimum influence since marijuana accounts for almost all of drug possession arrests in the USA. But our efforts can’t cease there nor with psychedelics, a drug class that has gained increased support for reform in gentle of its potential for medical use. Unhelpful distinctions between medicine as being both “onerous” or “delicate;” derived from crops versus made in a laboratory; and many others., solely serve to stigmatize some medicine whereas making exceptions for others. Oregon’s landmark Measure 110 that decriminalized the possession of all medicine and enormously expanded entry to well being providers in that state ought to be a north star as we envision an finish to the drug struggle and what a public well being method to medicine may appear to be.
Drug coverage reforms, with out repairing the harms of previous enforcement, is unjust. We should additionally decide to repairing the harms of a long time of racially focused enforcement whose results are nonetheless felt in communities to this present day. This requires the automated expungement of prior data and reinvestment of any revenues or cost-savings again into the communities most harmed by the drug struggle. The federal Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act and New York’s Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act are two landmark examples of laws the place reparative justice, social fairness, and neighborhood reinvestment have remained on the forefront.
A post-prohibition world ought to middle on these most impacted by criminalization and ascribe to a core set of values, similar to fairness, inclusivity, public well being, and entry. Folks most impacted by the drug struggle ought to be included in future insurance policies with a view to be sure that our post-prohibition world doesn’t maintain the exact same punitive and exploitative techniques of the drug struggle. Central to that is understanding the way in which that capitalism has usually replicated and even entrenched the harms of prohibition within the authorized market and well being providers. Early examples are marijuana reforms that locked out and denied individuals with marijuana convictions from acquiring licenses and, in some circumstances, even the power to work within the authorized market.
We’ve got realized that insurance policies to finish the quick harms of the drug struggle are a step ahead however a far cry from attaining precise justice. We’d like a cohesive plan and imaginative and prescient for the world after the drug struggle, together with a recognition of how police goal low-income and communities of colour and will proceed to take action beneath different pretexts when drug insurance policies are reformed. The time is now. We’ve got created the momentum and a robust urge for food for drug coverage reform that may now not be ignored. Nonetheless, what these inevitable coverage adjustments will really appear to be — and whether or not they are going to really meet the present second in a simply and equitable means — depends upon what we do now.