by Mary C. Piemonte
On the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of the declared “War on Drugs” established under former Richard M. Nixon, President Barack Obama’s administration got a “C” on a new report card on their efforts over the past year to reform, if not end, the drug war, which has turned out to be a “war against poor and powerless black people across the country,” according The Institute of the Black World 21st Century.
According to the IBW record card, “Half of the ‘War on Drugs’ is a war on marijuana and black people are arrested at 5-9 times the rate of whites for marijuana possession even though the rates of marijuana consumption are roughly the same between blacks and whites. Other marijuana data compiled over the last year continues to reflect a persistent pattern of disproportionate and racially imbalanced punitive practices for drug-related offenses.”
IBW announced their decision on July 31, 2014 stating in their press release that the barely passing grade came about after a year’s work of “investing a significant amount of time and resources in research, advocacy and organizing around the War on Drugs.”
According to Dr. Ron Daniels, IBW’s president, the basis of their research on how the Obama administration was faring in the war on drugs also stemmed from the demands of hundreds of protesters from New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., who came together in the nation’s capital a year ago, “to proclaim that we have suffered long enough and that the time had come to bring an end to an ill-conceived and destructive policy/strategy.
“Our report which gives the Administration a C grade finds a mixed record of some significant steps taken by the White House and the Justice Department over the past 12 months along with persistent and unacceptable inaction and foot-dragging in a number of critical areas.
“In short, while progress has been made to cease the most repressive and racially discriminatory drug policies, there’s still much left to be done to bring a speedy and comprehensive end to the War on Drugs and to begin repairing the horrible damage it has visited on black communities across the country,” Daniels added.
Using the report card to repeat their and others’ demands made a year ago, when they marched to the White House on June 17, 2013, IBW recommended that President Obama’s administration should “immediately” do the following six things in their drug policy reform efforts:
“Intensify efforts to eliminate the disparity in sentencing between powdered and crack cocaine, form a Presidential Commission to initiate a National Dialogue on the regulation and taxation of drugs, allocate more federal funds for drug education, counseling and treatment.
“Issue an Executive Order terminating the War on Drugs and replacing it with a national initiative that treats drugs and drug addiction as a public health issue as well as an Executive Order ending the practice of using incarcerated persons as prison labor.”
And “mobilize moral and political support for direct public sector jobs and sustainable economic development programs with priority inclusion of formerly incarcerated persons targeted to transform distressed Black communities.”
Additionally, IBW proposed that President Obama’s administration ” immediately” de-criminalize the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana, which the group claims is “the most urgent priority” in the drug war.
Read IBW’s full report here.
Confirming IBW’s accusations of discriminatory tactics in the drug war, earlier in July, a USA TODAY investigation found that The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives targeted minorities in their recent drug stings and “has more than quadrupled its use of those stings during the past decade.” Read more here.