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.
Washington Marijuana Legalization: We hope that marijuana reform will spark change throughout the criminal justice system
Courts should review harsh sentences from ill-conceived drug laws
Lead: Law enforcement assisted diversion


Monday, October 11, 2010
Fall is upon us, which means harvest season is in full swing. Not only have Washington’s farmers, orchard workers, and wine makers been busy, but so too have outdoor marijuana growers and the law enforcement officers that chase them. The growers are attracted to the northwest’s mild growing climate, large uninhabited tracts of land, and easy access to consumer markets (i.e. they don’t have to cross any borders). In response, law enforcement wages large scale eradication efforts to rid the state of these illicit grow operations, which results in the confiscation of thousands of marijuana plants, but few arrests. So who’s winning this game of cat and mouse in Washington’s most remote locations? The unfortunate answer is, no one. Read more
Friday, October 1, 2010
The phrase "standing in the gap" comes from the Old Testament. According to the prophet Ezekiel, God said, "I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done." Yikes. Read more
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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