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9 Huge Blows to the Catastrophic War on Drugs -- Will We Have Sane Drug Policy Some Day?

2011 has been a watershed year for the movement working to end our county’s disastrous war on drugs.
 
 
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 2011 has been a watershed year for the movement working to end our county’s disastrous war on drugs. Below are the top stories of the year that exemplify the momentum and give us hope that we can find alternatives to drug war madness.

#1. World Leaders Make International News by Calling for Marijuana Legalization and End to Drug War

This summer, the Global Commission on Drug Policy made worldwide news in more than 3,000 outlets when they released a report calling for a paradigm shift  in global drug policy -- including not just alternatives to incarceration and greater emphasis on public health approaches to drug use, but also decriminalization and experiments in legal regulation. The Commission is comprised of former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan; Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group; four former presidents, including the commission's chairman, Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil; George P. Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of State; Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve; and several other distinguished world leaders.

#2. 40-Year Anniversary of Nixon’s Launch of Drug War Met with Nationwide Protests

June 17 marked forty years since President Richard Nixon, citing drug abuse as “public enemy No. 1”, declared a "war on drugs." A trillion dollars and millions of ruined lives later, a political consensus is emerging that the war on drugs is a counterproductive failure. The Drug Policy Alliance led advocates all across the country in marking the auspicious date with a day of action to raise awareness about the catastrophic failure of drug prohibition and to call for an exit strategy from the failed war on drugs. More than 50 events on the anniversary generated hundreds of local and national stories.

#3. Gallop Poll Shows Historic Support: 50% of Americans Favor Ending Marijuana Prohibition

For the first time a Gallup poll has found that 50% of Americans support making marijuana legal. Public support for making marijuana legal has shifted dramatically in the last two decades, particularly in the last few years. Gallup has been asking Americans since 1970, “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?” Forty years ago support registered at 12%, rose to 28% percent by the late ‘70s, dipped slightly during the 1980s, and then rose gradually to 36% in 2005.  The past six years, however, have witnessed a dramatic jump in support, with important implications for state and national marijuana policy. Majorities of men, liberals, 18-29 year-olds, moderates, Independents, Democrats, 30-49 year-olds, and voters in Western, Midwestern and Eastern states now support legalizing cannabis.

#4. NYPD Commissioner Directs Police to Stop Improper Marijuana Arrests

In 2010, the New York City Police Department arrested 50,383 people for low-level marijuana offenses. Arrests for low-level marijuana possession offenses are the number one arrest in New York City, making up 15 percent of all arrests. What makes these record number of arrests even more outrageous is that under 7/8 of an ounce of marijuana is supposed to be decriminalized in New York and a non-arrestable offense. The only reason people should be arrested with under an ounce is if they are smoking it in public or it is in plain view. The NYPD has been stopping and frisking 100,000’s of black and Latino youth and then tricking them to emptying out their pockets. Once the person pulls out the joint or small bag of marijuana, the NYPD says it is “in public view” and arrests them.  A campaign led by the Drug Policy Alliance, the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives, and VOCAL pounded away at Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD for the racist enforcement of marijuana arrests – and in October, NYPD Commission Ray Kelly issued an internal order commanding officers to follow existing New York State law by ending arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana – as long as the marijuana was never in public view.