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

Published: 
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Last week the California NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) endorsed Proposition 19, a marijuana legalization initiative, which will appear on the November ballot in California. As stated by California NAACP president Alice Huffman, “we are joining a growing number of medical professionals, labor organizations, law enforcement authorities, local municipalities and approximately 56% of the public in saying that it is time to decriminalize the use of marijuana.” Adding further, that “the war on drugs is a failure and disproportionately targets young men and women of color, particularly African-American males.”   Read more
Published: 
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I spent a week in Detroit attending workshops, plenaries, meeting lots of new people, and discussing ideas. This may sound like a typical conference, but the US Social Forum (USSF) is more than workshops and networking. The USSF is a movement building process where activists and advocates from across the country gather to share ideas, cultivate relationships for effective action, engage in dialogue on how to create "another world" - one that is free from racism, homophobia, sexism, and other forms of inequality and unfairness. Throughout the week, my activist spirit was rejuvenated and inspired – and the energy continues. Read more
Published: 
Monday, June 28, 2010
Last week, Seattle's weekly Stranger newspaper reported on the launch of a new meth outreach program: For 16 years, Seattle Counseling Service (SCS), an LGBT mental-health- and addiction-­counseling center, has focused its meth outreach on gay men. A month ago, the organization started something different: Women OUT, a weekly meth-abuse support group for lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LBTQ) women. This is a good thing. Rates of current (past-month) use of methamphetamine by women and men have been equal in recent years. Why the previous focus on gay men? According to a 2004 report published by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors and the National Coalition of STD Directors, evidence suggested that meth use increased the likelihood of engaging in risky behavior like unprotected sex. Well, yes, that shouldn't have surprised anyone.
Published: 
Monday, June 21, 2010
On June 10, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) proclaimed a major victory in the War on Drugs. As stated by Attorney General Eric Holder, Project Deliverance “struck a significant blow against the [Mexican] cartels…, [albeit] just one battle in what is an ongoing war.” The numbers involved certainly are impressive, 2,226 arrests (including 23 here in Washington), 74.1 tons of illegal drugs seized, and $154 million in apprehended assets. However, Project Deliverance is about more than just flashy photos of seized drugs and stern quotes from law enforcement officials, it is a snapshot of the futility of the War on Drugs.  Read more
Published: 
Monday, June 14, 2010
Last Thursday, a new law that improves qualifying patients' access to medical marijuana went into effect.  Sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36), SB 5798 expands the list of health care professionals who can authorize the medical use of cannabis under state law.  The new list includes all providers who are currently authorized to prescribe medications such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners.  Only two other states, New Mexico and Rhode Island, grant this authorization power to all health care professionals who can prescribe.  As Sen. Kohl-Welles explains, "This bill will provide real relief to those who are suffering, particularly those who live in rural areas and low-income individuals who typically see advanced nurse practitioners rather than MDs. Providing this relief honors the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved the medical-marijuana initiative in 1998." A more detailed explanation of the law, which also includes new requirements for patients' written authorizations, can be found on Page 3 of the Summer 2010 issue of the West Coast Leaf.  Also, ACLU of Washington has updated its web page, "A Guide to Washington's Medical Marijuana Law," to reflect the changes.  The web page also includes an informational brochure that can be downloaded for printing and a revised form that health care professionals can use for authorizations.

911 Good Samaritan Law Wallet Card

Document, Published: 
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Help save lives. Download our free wallet card to learn more about how Washington's 911 Good Samaritan Law could protect you from prosecution for drug possession when reporting an overdose.
Published: 
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
There has been a lot of media buzz lately about gang violence, and from our perspective, that’s both a good and a bad thing. For example, when I read this article about a gang crackdown in the Tri-Cities, I felt both sympathy and frustration: http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2010/06/07/1043904/gang-crackdown-helps-keep-tri.html Sympathy, because of course, we all want safe families, safe neighborhoods, and safe cities. The violence described in the article should be addressed, and to the extent that articles like this highlight the problem and suggest that more resources are needed to do the work of community policing, we’re all for it. But the article’s reference to “known gang members” begs the question—how do they “know” who the gang members are? Is it because they are actually being accused of committing crimes? Or is it based on other factors—the individuals’ appearance, clothing, or associations? These are critical questions to ask because we have seen similar gang crackdowns in other states skew disproportionately towards people of color. We have seen also repeated attempts to use the “gang member” label to short-circuit due process rights. For example, in Olympia this session, a number of bills were introduced that would punish suspected gang members—with enforcement happening on the basis of mere suspicion of gang membership, rather than actual proof that an individual had committed any crime. This approach to enforcement has it backwards. The focus should be on actual criminal activity, not on whether an individual “belongs to” a gang—the label is a distraction rather than a useful tool. Allocating our scarce law enforcement resources on the basis of whether someone looks like a gang member, rather than whether we think someone has committed a crime, virtually guarantees that we will get no closer to solving the issue of gang violence. And don’t get me started on the other non-sequitur in the article—the looming presence of the war on drugs, a phenomenon that feeds into making gang activity profitable. The authors do a great job of condemning the violence that the drug war has spawned—but don’t take the logical next step of questioning whether the problem might be the drug war itself. My guess is that as long we keep drug possession illegal and make drug trafficking such a profitable activity, we’ll be fighting the same losing battle against drug trafficking and criminal activity. It’s time to consider whether there might be better uses for our resources than pouring them into this bottomless rathole.
News Release, Published: 
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Shown at left are St. Sen. Rosa Franklin and WA Attorney General Rob McKenna. A new law that aims to save lives by encouraging people who witness drug overdoses to call 911 is going into effect. Promoted by the ACLU-WA and passed by the 2010 legislature, the “911 Good Samaritan” law provides immunity from drug possession charges to people who seek medical assistance in drug overdose situations.
News Release, Published: 
Friday, June 4, 2010
Washington State voters passed the Medical Use of Marijuana Act in 1998 as a ballot initiative (I-692).  The information here provides a general explanation of the law.

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