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.
Logo for LEAD, a law enforcement assisted diversion program

Topic Resources

Published: 
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
September is National Alcohol & Drug Addiction Recovery Month.  On Labor Day, Washingtonians and Oregonians in recovery, along with family and friends, joined hands in a human chain across the Interstate 5 bridge that spans the two states.  Patty Katz and Louise Wedge launched the annual Hands Across the Bridge event eight years ago to celebrate their own recovery and, as Patty puts it, "to put a face on recovery." Read more
Published: 
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Last week saw the release of two annual federal government reports which highlight the pervasiveness of Marijuana in the U.S. Unfortunately, only one of these reports received attention from U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske. Read more
Published: 
Monday, September 13, 2010
Prescription opiate abuse (powerful pain killers) is a serious problem requiring smart policy solutions. Two policies intended to curb abuse of these powerful drugs highlight the right and wrong approach for dealing with the issue. Read more
Published: 
Monday, August 30, 2010
In considering alternatives to arrest and incarceration for reducing substance abuse, it is useful to note that smoking rates continue to decline in Washington state -- and to understand how that decline came about. In 1997, almost 25% of adults were current smokers. By 2009, this number has decreased to less than 15%. In fact, we now have the third lowest smoking rate in the U.S. Well done Washington! What's even more exciting is that we didn't have to arrest, prosecute, or incarcerate any adults for smoking to achieve this result. Read more
Published: 
Monday, August 23, 2010
Ending the War on Drugs means ending our over-reliance on the criminal justice system to address what is primarily a public health problem. It means replacing arrest, prosecution, and incarceration with prevention, education, and treatment as your primary strategies for reducing substance abuse and improving the health and safety of our communities. And it means ending the civil liberties, civil rights, and racial justice abuses that have flowed with terrible inevitability from our declaration of war not truly on inanimate substances, but rather on people - disproportionately people of color, young people, and poor people. But there is reason for hope that the War on Drugs is coming to an end. And Washington is a leader in making it happen. To support this claim, I offer Exhibit A. Read more
Published: 
Monday, August 16, 2010
Although the number of people being arrested and imprisoned for drug crimes in Washington is decreasing, we still rely far too heavily on the criminal sanction for dealing with drug abuse. Only 140 people were in Washington prisons for drug crimes in 1980, while in 2008 there were over 2,300. And this doesn’t include people locked up in jails; for example, in 2008, the average daily population (ADP) of drug offenders in the King County jail was 459 – 18% of total ADP. Similarly, less than 6,000 people were arrested for drug crimes in 1981, while the figure was over 20,000 in 2009 (down from an all time high of 27,909 in 2007). Even after adjusting for population changes, these increases are staggering.
Published: 
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Last week the Seattle P-I publicized the fact that Seattle's University District needle exchange, privately funded and operated by the People's Harm Reduction Alliance, had added clean crack pipes to its arsenal of disease-prevention weapons.  KING 5 News picked up the story, as did KIRO Radio. Many of the reader comments posted to the stories reflect the expected divide in public opinion about needle exchange programs.  On the one hand are those who understand that certain strategies focused on reducing the societal and personal harms of drug abuse not only "meet addicts where they are" and provide a compassionate link to treatment and recovery, they also save tax dollars that would otherwise be spent on emergency rooms, hospitalization, and uninsured treatment of Hepatitis C, HIV, and AIDS.  On the other are those who think harm reduction strategies simply enable addiction, and addicts would be better served by a dose of "tough love" - or simply left to die from overdose or the diseases they contract. Read more
Published: 
Monday, August 2, 2010
Washington, D.C. is not generally known for progressive drug policy reform, but last week it was host to the advancement of three laws that may help dismantle the failed War on Drugs. The Fair Sentencing Act is on its way to Obama's desk, medical marijuana will soon be available in D.C., and the Webb Commission is one step closer to being convened. Read more
Published: 
Monday, July 26, 2010
Last week the California affiliates of the ACLU (Northern, Southern, and San Diego) endorsed Proposition 19, a cannabis reform initiative that will be on the ballot in November. Kudos to our ACLU peers in California. Prop 19 represents an important step forward in the development of rational marijuana policy.
Published: 
Monday, July 19, 2010
I've recently returned from vacation in San Diego, a beautiful city from which you can see Tijuana, or "TJ," as the locals call it. My family and I had a fabulous time relaxing, reuniting with loved ones, and stuffing our gullets with the wonders of Juanita's Taco Shop. But my husband broke my cardinal vacation rule - no talk about work, please - and brought up California's Proposition 19. That forced my hand: If you're going to talk about cannabis reform, you have to talk about Mexico.

Pages