Futility… and Hope
The War on Drugs has failed.
Americans have the highest rate of illegal drug consumption in the world, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Illegal drug prices have generally decreased while drug purity has generally increased since 1990. *see study and article This suggests that the world’s supply of illegal drugs is actually increasing.
38,329 people in the U.S. died from a drug overdose in 2010. Yet, most of these deaths are preventable. But the “tough on crime” rhetoric of the drug war and the stigma associated with drug use have blocked the widespread adoption of life-saving overdose prevention policies, including Good Samaritan 911 legislation and distribution of the overdose reversal medication naloxone.
Annually, the U.S. spends more than $51,000,000,000 on the War on Drugs.
And it hasn’t just affected us Americans. Some 60,000 people have died in Mexico since 2006, related in some way to the military assault on the cartels. 70,000 weapons of U.S. origin have been seized by Mexican authorities between 2007 and 2011. In 2004, U.S. Congress declined to renew a 10-year ban on the sale of assault weapons, which quickly became the weapons of choice for Mexican drug cartels. Mexico is just one example of other countries devastated by this War.
The War on Drugs has failed… yet it continues to rage on. 1.55 million people were arrested in 2012 on nonviolent drug charges. Mass incarceration is not working! Greater incarceration rates actually serve to increase crime rates.
But there are some glimmers (rays, maybe) of hope.
The Justice Department announced that they will avoid charging certain low-level and nonviolent drug offenders with crimes that carry mandatory minimums. Attorney General Holder stated in a speech to the American Bar Association in August 2013, defendants “now will be charged with offenses for which the accompanying sentences are better suited to their individual conduct, rather than excessive prison terms more appropriate for violent criminals or drug kingpins.”
A key bill in Congress is the Smarter Sentencing Act, which has passed through committee in the Senate but hasn’t yet been moved to the floor. It would make the 2010 changes in the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive, and enlarge the “safety valve” for minor offenders in drug cases. *see FAMM
Currently, a working group is preparing a major effort with the Department of Justice to move a large number of commutation petitions (like ones necessary for Walter, Thad, Homar, and Don) more quickly, efficiently, and effectively through the commutation petition process.
And there are surely more glimmers of hope out there.
However, these glimmers of hope still struggle to poke significant holes in the dark clouds still persisting. Clouds of the storms of War that have devastated and dehumanized for too long now. Quick and easy solutions will not be enough. We must all come together to fight the good, long fight, in love and with mercy, with reason and full of compassion, for our neighbors and our communities. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”, and, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Here are a couple of organization websites to find ways to get involved and take action: FAMM and Drug Policy Alliance. There are many more. I will gather others for a later post. Feel free to send me suggestions for action at firstname.lastname@example.org !
May God, our source of Hope, fill us all with joy and peace in trusting and acting, so that our lives may overflow in Hope by the power of God’s Spirit of Life.