Letter: It’s time to call off the war on drugs

FILE - In this Nov. 2016 file photo, the American Flag flies outside the Justice Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

For over 50 years, the United States has been fighting a war on drugs. In the name of eradicating drugs, we ushered in an era of mass incarceration. Today, the United States imprisons more of its citizens than any other country. Drug possession is a leading cause for arrest, with 1 in 5 people incarcerated charged with a drug offense. Despite similar rates of drug use by both groups, people of color are disproportionately imprisoned for possession compared to their white counterparts.

The government spends billions on drug prohibition yearly, but all this punishment is ineffective. Last year, over 100,000 Americans died from an overdose. Since the inception of the drug war in 1971, rates of overdose and substance use have skyrocketed.

Drugs cannot be shot and killed. They cannot be placed in handcuffs and locked away. Instead, war has been waged against our own people. The drug war has been used to justify excessive police brutality, especially against people of color.

Five decades is more than enough time to gauge whether a policy works, and all evidence points toward the war on drugs as ineffective and harmful. In 2023, it’s long past time to call off the war. Let’s support policies that treat substance use as a public health issue instead of a criminal one.

Allyson Anderson, Murray

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