Calling for an End to the War on Drugs

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the pre-eminent organization of criminal defense lawyers whose membership numbers more than 10,000, calls upon federal and state governments to: ...........

WHEREAS, billions of dollars have been spent by the federal and state governments to eradicate the use of drugs by imprisoning close to a million convicted drug offenders without significantly reducing the availability and use of drugs;

WHEREAS, during the last twenty years there has been a significant erosion of civil liberties, particularly involving the right to privacy, in the name of winning the so-called War on Drugs;

WHEREAS, the population of the United States constitutes less than 5% of the world’s population, yet its prisons now house 25% of the worldwide prison population, principally due to the incarceration of drug offenders;

WHEREAS, the number of Americans imprisoned for violating the drug laws increased from 1980 to 1996, from 41,000 to 958,000 while the number of young Americans serving sentences in state prisons for drug offenses quadrupled from 31 per 100,000 in 1986 to 122 per 100,000 in 1996;

WHEREAS, application of our nation’s drug laws has been racially discriminatory, whether intentional or unintentional, in that a disproportionately high percentage of African-Americans (62.7% of the drug offenders sentenced to state prisons are African-American although they only constitute 12% of the population) have been sentenced to prison despite the fact, that according to government estimates, approximately five times as many Caucasians use cocaine than African-Americans;

WHEREAS, federal minimum mandatory sentencing for cocaine offenses unreasonably punishes possession and use of cocaine base far more severely than possession and use of cocaine powder resulting in longer terms of imprisonment for African-Americans than Caucasians for committing similar offenses;

WHEREAS, in California, for example, 5 African-Americans are in prison for every 1 enrolled in a state university;

WHEREAS, states with higher rates of imprisonment for drug offenses also have had higher rates of continuing drug use thereby demonstrating that harsh sentencing laws do not significantly deter drug use;

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WHEREAS, in a nation of 200 million people the number of drug users is relatively small given that reasonable estimates of the number of marijuana users is around 10.5 million while the number of cocaine and heroin users is only around 2 to 3 million people;

WHEREAS, abuse of legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco represent a far more serious health problem than use of marijuana, cocaine, or heroin in that alcohol abuse is a relatively common factor in assaults and vehicle accidents causing far more damage and injury to others than marijuana, cocaine or heroin use;

WHEREAS, addiction to any substance, whether legal or illegal, is really a health problem best treated by the medical community and others trained in the causes and treatments of addiction;

BE IT RESOLVED that the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the pre-eminent organization of criminal defense lawyers whose membership numbers more than 10,000, calls upon federal and state governments to:

1. End the War on Drugs by declaring all drug use to be a health rather than a criminal problem and immediately repeal all laws criminalizing the possession, use and delivery of controlled substances;

2. Cease and desist from all involvement in foreign countries calculated to end the cultivation and or production of controlled substances;

3. Release every individual now imprisoned solely for conviction of a drug offense;

4. Create and adequately fund a federal Department of Drug and Addiction Services (DDAS) which shall sell previously denominated controlled substances to any person over the age of 21 at prices below their street value so as to end the black market in drugs while setting aside a portion of the revenues collected to establish and maintain free clinics nationwide for drug education and the treatment of addiction.  

New York, New York

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