Strange Bedfellows to Rally Against America's Failed Drug War at Upcoming Shadow Convention in Los Angeles, Tues. Aug. 15
Drug War Debate Timely as California Voters Consider Initiative to Allow Treatment Instead of Prison for Nonviolent Drug Law Offenders
On Tuesday, August 15, elected officials from both parties will gather along with family members of those incarcerated for drug-related crimes, medical marijuana patients and drug policy experts to address a growing civil rights issue sure to be ignored by the Democratic Party down the street: America's failed war on drugs.
Speakers, including all of those listed above, will address how America's war on drugs is failing, even by the government's own standards. This year alone, taxpayers will spend more than $40 billion to enforce the drug laws -- a dramatic increase since 1980, when federal spending was roughly $1 billion and state spending just a few times that. Yet illicit drugs are cheaper and purer than they were two decades ago, and continue to be readily available.
In addition, according to a new study by the Justice Policy Institute, the number of persons imprisoned for drug offenses in the U.S. increased by more than one thousand percent from 1980 to 1997, and continues to rise. This is despite the fact that states with higher rates of drug incarceration -- with California at the top -- experience higher, not lower, rates of drug use than other states.
"People are finally starting to wake up to the fact that the drug war makes no sense," said Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of The Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, which is organizing the Shadow Convention proceedings on the drug war. "The war on drugs is not a war on crime, as politicians would have us believe. Instead, it is a war on the poor, a war on public health, and a war on our basic Constitutional rights."
The drug policy program at the Shadow Convention will take place on Tuesday, August 15 at Patriotic Hall at 1816 Figueroa Street in Los Angeles from 10AM-9PM.
An ad highlighting the hypocrisies of the drug war, with a photo of Al Gore, will run in this week's L.A. Weekly. (A similar ad ran with a photo of Governor George W. Bush in the Philadelphia Weekly during the Republican National Convention.)
The drug war debate is particularly relevant in California, where voters will consider Proposition 36 in November, which would divert non-violent drug possession offenders to treatment instead of incarceration. By White House estimates, 57 percent of people in need of treatment do not receive it, despite numerous studies demonstrating that treatment is far more cost-effective than imprisonment at reducing drug abuse.
Other topics to be addressed on Tuesday, August 15 in Los Angeles include:
- Racism and the Drug War - African-Americans comprise nearly two-thirds of all drug offenders admitted to state prison, though their rates of drug use are roughly equal to those of whites. According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, black men are admitted to state prison on drug charges at a rate that is 13.4 times greater than that of white men - and up to 57 times greater in some states.
The failed drug war is one of three topics to be addressed during the Shadow Conventions, taking place alongside the Republican and Democratic National Conventions this summer. Campaign finance reform and the growing wealth gap are the other two topics to be addressed.
"Most thoughtful Americans know that the drug war has failed, and that it cannot succeed," said Nadelmann. "Sorely lacking, however, is the political courage required to open this debate."
ATTENTION JOURNALISTS: For more information about the Shadow Conventions or America's failed war on drugs, please call Tony Newman at (212) 548-0383, or go to http://www.drugpolicy.org/events/archive/conferences/shadow/.