War on Drugs

Drug Policy

War on Drugs

Our nation’s misguided and costly "War on Drugs" has undermined civil liberties in many ways — eroding protections against unlawful searches and seizures, imposing overly harsh sentences on individuals, disproportionately impacting communities of color. The ACLU of Washington Drug Policy Project works for policies that treat drug use as a public health concern, not a criminal justice matter, through public education, legislative advocacy, and litigation.
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Topic Resources

News Release, Published: 
Thursday, July 21, 2011
The Washington Supreme Court ruled against an authorized patient who was fired for using medical marijuana, even though there was no evidence that its use interfered with her job performance. In a disappointing 8-1 opinion, the Court found that the Washington Medical Use of Marijuana Act does not protect employees who are discharged for exercising their right to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Published: 
Friday, July 8, 2011
As Connecticut becomes the fourteenth state in the U.S. to decriminalize adult possession of marijuana, it’s clear that many states want to take a different approach towards marijuana; despite the federal government’s continued blustering on state medical marijuana laws.
Published: 
Friday, June 24, 2011
Although President Nixon gets credit for declaring the "war on drugs," it is really state officials who have been waging the war. In 2009, there were nearly 1.7 million arrests for drug crimes in the U.S., the vast majority of which were made by state law enforcement officers. And these arrests came under laws passed by state lawmakers. So the number of individuals in state prisons and jails for drug crimes far outnumbers those in federal prison, despite the fact that more than half of all federal prisoners are there for drug crimes. Because state officials are serving as the front-line troops in the "war on drugs," efforts to reform drug laws should focus on the states.
Published: 
Monday, June 6, 2011
Last month, a high school in southeastern Washington conducted a suspicionless drug search. Students were asked to leave their classroom so that a police officer with a “drug-detection dog” could check their backpacks for signs of drug possession. After the search, two students were singled out for a more invasive search and questioning. One had marijuana paraphernalia in his backpack; in the other, no signs of drugs or drug paraphernalia could be found. Good news for the second student—after the humiliating and anxiety-producing search was complete, he was permitted to go back to class.
Published: 
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
June 2011 has the unfortunate distinction of marking the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon's declaration of a "war on drugs" — a war which has cost $1 trillion but produced little to no effect on the supply of or demand for drugs. The war on drugs has been a war on communities of color. The racial disparities are staggering: despite the fact that whites engage in drug offenses at a higher rate than African-Americans, African-Americans are incarcerated for drug offenses at a rate that is 10 times greater than that of whites.
Published: 
Monday, May 23, 2011
Earlier this month, a Louisiana judge sentenced a 35-year-old man to prison for the rest of his life—for marijuana. According to the Times-Picayune, Cornell Hood II was charged with one count of possession with intent to distribute after law enforcement found approximately two pounds of marijuana and $1,600 in cash in Hood’s home. The jury convicted him of a lesser charge, but the prosecutor used Hood’s prior convictions to seek a life sentence anyway, arguing Hood was a “career criminal.” What were Hood’s prior convictions? In 2005 and 2009, he pled guilty to selling marijuana. Obviously, Hood has been making his living selling marijuana for the past half-dozen years, and selling marijuana for recreational use is still a crime in this country. But Hood’s offenses involved no violence, no damage or theft of property. He was sentenced to probation in each of his prior cases. Setting aside the question of whether jailing a person for life for marijuana can be ethically justified, let’s look at whether it’s smart.
Published: 
Friday, April 29, 2011
Today, two troubling news stories on medical marijuana are in the headlines in Washington. The first is the federal government's raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane. The second is Governor Gregoire's expected veto of SB 5073, the thoughtful and comprehensive medical marijuana bill passed by the state legislature with leadership from Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Rep. Eileen Cody.
Published: 
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Abuse of prescription opiates (powerful pain killers) and rising overdose death rates are a huge problem in Washington and across the nation. Since 2007, overdoses have been the leading cause of accidental injury death in Washington, ahead of motor vehicle and firearm accidents. Harm reduction strategies should be included as part of the federal response for combating this crisis.
Published: 
Friday, April 8, 2011
Let’s be clear:Senate Bill 5073, the medical marijuana legislation moving through the state legislature, isn’t perfect.  Different stakeholders with different motivations have made a lot of changes to it along the way. It’s no one’s ideal bill.
Published: 
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
The study of psychology and addiction behaviors has lost a true pioneer. The recent passing of Professor G. Alan Marlatt has reverberated across the addiction research and drug policy communities. As a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington, Dr. Marlatt broke new ground in the areas of harm reduction, relapse prevention, and evidence based treatment techniques.

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