28 grams of crack cocaine can earn you a $28,000 per year prison sentence. A growing consensus of policy makers and activists hope to see that changed.
U.S. President Richard Nixon is credited as the first person to declare a “war on drugs”, stating in a 1971 press conference that the abuse of drugs was “public enemy number one”. Unfortunately, America’s War on Drugs has proven to be much like Vietnam, the other war of Nixon’s presidency: long, destructive, only moderately successful, and often suffering from an unclear sense of purpose. The following year, 1972, Nixon became embroiled in the Watergate scandal, thus insuring that he – not drugs – would become public enemy number one.
Today, America’s prisons are overflowing with those convicted of drug-related offenses. While some are hardened criminals at the center of massive drug rings, others are serving a mandatory sentence of five years for being found in possession of just 28 grams (about one ounce) of crack cocaine. Outside the U.S., Americans’ drug habits fuel violence in Mexico and around the world that is claiming thousands of lives. While it may not be clear what “winning” the War on Drugs would look like, it is obvious that we are far from that point. Continue reading