Forty years ago today, President Richard Nixon declared war on drugs -- and according to protesters who gathered at Skyline Park earlier today, that's forty years too many for a failed policy that's done more damage than good not only to America, but to countries around the world.
The cost? Trillions of dollars, not to mention millions of people incarcerated for possessing small amounts of drugs when treatment would be an infinitely better option.
Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition (CCJRC), which took part in the demonstration, believes the date isn't something to celebrate. Rather, it should serve as a wake-up call to the rest of the country about how the policy needs to end. Donner and nearly forty other activists at the Skyline event raised their voices in concert with people at rallies in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and other locations today, with the goal of bringing awareness to the No More Drug War campaign. Their argument is simple: drug problems are perpetuated by the current system of incarceration and the manufacture of criminals from victimless crimes. Keeping drugs illegal fuels illegal drug cartels and drug violence. What is needed is a shift towards decriminalization and compassion.
According to Ruth Kanatser, senior health educator with the Harm Reduction Action Center, an injection-drug use clinic in Denver, she sees first hand how detrimental the criminalization of drug addiction coupled with the lack of funded treatment options has been.
In recent weeks, high profile world and business leaders have come out against the current policy. The Global Commission on Drug Policy, a group of nineteen current and former world leaders and intellectuals, released a report urging for reform. "The Global War on Drugs has failed," the report concluded.
Former President Jimmy Carter made similar comments to the New York Times this week. He said it is time America adopts "models of legal regulation of drugs... that are designed to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens."
"The current policies will never work," Donner says. "It's not a matter of, 'Oh, we have to be smarter about it,' or 'Oh, we've got to throw more money at it.' No. This policy will never work this way. Forty years has just proven that... so how much longer is that going to take before we get serious about real drug policy? We are missing the opportunity to do the right thing by continuing to do the wrong thing."
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