The Racism of the Drug War (Part 2)

Local citizens protest federal closure of a Hollywood MMJ dispensary.
“End the drug war. The deteriorating economic conditions and the mess with immigration invite the violence of the drug lords and corrupt officials on both sides. It’s time to break up the coalition of the religious drug warriors and the drug dealers who fight any effort to decriminalize drugs. It’s time to treat all drugs the way we treat alcohol and cigarettes, substances that kill millions more than hard drugs do."

These are the words of Congressman Ron Paul—a wise leader who ran for President of the United States three times, but lost each election to lesser men who continued the failed campaign for drug prohibition.

The federal drug war has created such an anti-drug culture that state and local governments and civil society conform to the anti-drug climate by prohibiting drug use and enforcing random drug testing even for jobs that have nothing to do with the government or public safety.

That culture creates incentives for users of legally prescribed medical marijuana to remain unemployed. This is especially harmful to the black and Hispanic communities and other low-income neighborhoods where marijuana is an affordable alternative to expensive pain or psychiatric medication that allows more affluent citizens to function and hold a job.

It’s even worse that so many people in prison are locked up for a drug offense. The drug war created a booming prison-industrial complex that, for some reason, causes the Land of the Free to have the same ratio of incarcerated citizens as North Korea. 

According to Common Sense for Drug Policy, 50% of federal inmates in 2014 were incarcerated for drug offenses. As of 2013, over 850,000 Americans were on parole from prison with a drug charge as their most serious criminal offense. At the same time, nearly 4 million Americans were on probation for a drug charge.

Nearly two thirds of the US prison population is black or Latino. The 2010 US Census counted black and Hispanic inmates to be 59% of the prison population. According to the US Bureau of Prisons, 60% of the federal prison population is white inmates. This means that most US inmates doing time for drug offenses are serving it in state prisons—a testimony of states pressured to imitate federal policies.

Senator Rand Paul, Ron Paul’s son and former 2016 presidential candidate, said in a debate at the Reagan Library: “There is at least one prominent example on the stage of someone who smoked pot in high school, and yet the people going to jail for this are poor people, often African-American and often Hispanics, and yet the rich kids who use drugs aren’t.”

The racist drug war must end before it destroys more American lives, especially in the communities that can afford it the least. The Libertarian Party has been against the drug war since the Party’s founding in 1971—over four decades before the Democrat Party decided marijuana decriminalization was fashionable. The Libertarian Party of Nevada is actively working to fully legalize marijuana in Nevada and bring the federal drug war one dramatic step closer to ending.