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POLICY/POITICS: A Grim Anniversary

A Grim Anniversary: 20 years ago today possibly the worst single bill ever passed by the US Congress went into law. In the the hysteria over crack cocaine and the death of basketball star Len Bias (not from crack by the way), Tip O’Neill decided to get tough on drugs. In 3 days law left committees and was voted on with no one stopping to think.

The result is long long mandatory minimums for low level drug users and dealers—which far exceed those for murders and rapists— and massive costs for the taxpayer. The consequence has been the general corruption of our entire criminal justice system and civil liberties.

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PeterMatt S. Recent comment authors
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Peter
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Peter

I have to agree that the war on drugs is about as successful as the war in Vietnam, the war in Iraq, and the war on booze in the 20’s. Most of the people I’ve seen need mental health and life support, not jail. Matt S’s first paragraph says it all. Why must this country declare war on everything to feel successful? It’s as if if we aren’t playing the bully we feel empty. Go figure.

Matt S.
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Matt S.

An accurate (and very sad) summary. The drug war is an unfortunate mix of poor policy, racism, shameful reactionism, draconian punishments, and intellectual impotence.
Good reading:
Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Vices, Times, and Places (RAND Studies in Policy Analysis) by Robert J. MacCoun and Peter Reuter.
And no, the authors are not hippies:
http://www.popcenter.umd.edu/people/reuter_peter/cv.pdf
http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~maccoun/MacCoun_vita.pdf