Drug Prohibition: A Cornerstone of Systemic Racism
Black Lives Matter is the biggest social movement of our generation with the goals of ending police shootings, systemic racism and more recently defunding the police.
But a major aspect of systemic racism in America has gone woefully overlooked until recently:
The Drug War.
A lot of people aren’t aware that there are any current laws in the US legal system that are still systemically racist. But most major drug laws are rooted in racism:
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the first anti-opium laws in the 1870s were directed at Chinese immigrants. Similarly, the first anti-marijuana laws, were directed at Mexican migrants and Mexican Americans and the first anti-cocaine laws in the early 1900s were directed at black men in the South.
We think of these drugs as dangerous which is why they’re banned but if you look at evidence-based data alcohol is actually considered more dangerous to users and society than any other drug and causes more deaths than all illegal drugs combined.
In fact the only reason alcohol is legal and not other drugs is because alcohol has been traditionally used by Europeans for centuries while different drugs are associated with other parts of the world — adding another racial and cultural prejudice element to the drug laws in what is called drug apartheid.
These laws are still used to target minority communities — black men are up to four times more likely to get arrested for both drug possession and selling, despite consuming and selling drugs at similar rates as white people.
The good news is drug reform is possible. Portugal decriminalized all drugs back in the early 2000’s and saw very little increase in drug use but a dramatic drop in overdoses, and disease while improving drug users lives.
Decriminalization would effectively stop the police from being able to search a person simply for possessing a personal amount of a drug ending probable cause for many cop shooting situations.
This is particularly impactful as claims of drug use have long been used as justification for cop shootings as seen in the deaths of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor etc.
And if you take it a step further, by legalizing all prohibited drugs then we can get rid of most drug related crime by ending gang violence associated with the drug trade, and decreasing property crime associated with drug users as drugs become much less expensive in a legal market both of which particularly improve low income neighborhoods.
Decriminalizing and legalizing drugs will naturally defund the police as they won’t have to enforce drug possession and drug trafficking laws anymore and instead that money can go into regulations for quality control of legal drugs and community services rather than civil rights infringements.
Of course, there are more issues being aired by BLM but if you want a simple targeted attack on racism in America consider joining the movement and support drug decriminalization and legalization.