Drug Policy Alliance

Vietnam and the War on Drugs: What We Forget, We Repeat

I just finished watching the 18-hour documentary series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novice on the Vietnam War. To call it an epic masterpiece is an understatement–to call it a definitive documentary on one of the most complex events in U.S. history is to commit the common sin of oversimplification. Nonetheless, I found the series extremely affecting–as a person who came of age and political consciousness during the era covered, it was a reminder of how much my worldview and life path was a response to all that was happening then.  What I will say, is that of all the documentaries I have watched on the Vietnam War era, this one was the most personal, the most human, the most balanced (despite an obvious U.S. bias) and the most accurate in providing historical facts.

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Radical Self-Care: 6 Ways Activism Is Good for You

Seemingly every day we wake to some new terrifying and dispiriting news from the Trump administration. It’s almost too much to bear and yet, we must not only bear it, but continue to resist it and all the other politics of hate.

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The Ugly Motive Behind Trump's Repeal of DACA

Since the election, time and time again, Trump and members of his administration have touted “law and order” rhetoric, to advance an agenda that aims to expand criminalizationdeportations and promote white supremacy.

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War on Marijuana and Disparate Policing Communities of Color Must End

I went into law school thinking that I wanted to be a civil rights attorney. As a black queer woman, I understood many of the social injustices experienced by marginalized communities and wanted to use my law degree to fight the many systems of oppression that plagued and terrorized the communities that mattered to me. It wasn’t until my third year of law school, that I that recognized current cannabis policies as a legitimate social justice issue – particularly due to the way marijuana prohibition is enforced.

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Senate Bill Would Cut Millions of People From Healthcare and Escalate Opioid Crisis

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rolled out a disastrous healthcare bill drafted behind closed doors by a small group of Senate Republicans that would rollback provisions in the Affordable Care Act that has extended access to health care to millions of people. The independent Congressional Budget Office analysis reports that the Republican bill would leave 22 million uninsured and millions left besieged because of the nearly $800 billion in proposed Medicaid cuts.

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United Nations and World Health Organization Call for Drug Decriminalization

In a joint statement, the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO) expressed their support for countries in the review and repeal of laws that criminalize drug use and possession of drugs for personal use. This joint statement, which addresses discrimination in health care settings, comes in light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which aim to “ensure that no one is left behind”.

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Second Circuit Upholds Harsh Life Without Parole Sentence for Silk Road's Ross Ulbricht

On Wednesday, in a lengthy 139 page opinion, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a harsh life-without-parole sentence for Ross Ulbricht, the alleged creator of the Silk Road darknet marketplace. In 2015, a lower court convicted Mr. Ulbricht of operating the Silk Road website, on which individuals bought and sold drugs. The court sentenced Mr. Ulbricht to life without the possibility of parole, the harshest punishment short of death that our legal system allows.

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Remarks at New York's Farewell to Ethan Nadelmann

Editor's Note: The following is a speech given on Wednesday, April 26, on the occasion of Ethan Nadelmann's last week at the Drug Policy Alliance, which he founded.

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We Still Have a Chance to Stop Kratom Prohibition – And the DEA Actually Wants to Hear Your Thoughts

This summer, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced its intent to ban kratom, a medicinal plant used for millennia in Southeast Asia and currently used by millions in the United States. After DPA members and activists sent over 70,000 messages to Congress, 51 U.S. Representatives and almost a dozen Senators asked the DEA to postpone their ban.

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California Says No to Asset Forfeiture Abuse

Yesterday, California enacted a law that is among the country’s most far-reaching protections against civil asset forfeiture abuse and became the latest state to curtail policing for profit.

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Colorado Kids Aren't Using More Marijuana, But They're Bearing the Brunt of Enforcement

Last week was exciting for folks (nerds?) like me who are interested in the public health implications of marijuana policy reform, especially those of us in Colorado.

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After Prince's Tragic Overdose, Here's What You Need to Know About Fentanyl

The toxicology results from music legend Prince’s tragic death last month are now public, and the media are  focusing on what for many is a new word – fentanyl. It appears likely that Prince ingested it and tragically died some time later.

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It Wasn't Addiction That Killed Prince; It Was America's Stigmas About Addiction

Opioid addiction and overdose are preventable and treatable. The missed opportunities that could have prevented Prince’s death are astounding, and sadly, not surprising. In all the talk about the overdose crisis in this country, there has been scant attention to one of the biggest killers – stigma. Stigma about addiction led to Prince’s death, just like stigma leads to others’ deaths every single day.

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Making Drug Policy More Evidence-based: the Role of Scientists and Other Scholars

A few years ago Nicholas Kristof, an op ed writer for the New York Times, penned an opinion piece titled Professors, We Need You! Nowhere is this truer than in drug policy where scientific evidence seems to have little to do with how policy gets made. Despite a robust research base and a plethora of talented scholars working on drugs and drug policy, much of our drug policy flies in the face of both reason and research.

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The Overdose Crisis Is Making America Finally Consider Supervised Injection Facilities

There is an overdose crisis in the United States. More people are now dying from overdose deaths than from car accidents. Overdose has become an issue that is being talked about at all levels of government and just last week President Obama launched a major initiative to address addiction and overdose.

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Leading Medical Experts Call for Drug Policy Overhaul, Including Decriminalizing Drugs and Exploring Legal Regulation

As policymakers weigh “what to do about drugs,” they almost always focus on the potential harms of drugs and almost never on the harms of our drug policies themselves. But earlier today an esteemed group of researchers issued a comprehensive report on public health and international drug policy that documents in meticulous detail the catastrophic health consequences of the global war on drugs. Coming together as Johns Hopkins-Lancet Commission on Drug Policy and Health, twenty-six scientists conducted a comprehensive review of the literature and concluded that our drug control policies:

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Know Before You Toke: How Not to End Up in the ER on Your Excellent Pot Tourism Adventure

After relocating to Denver last month, I soon noticed a flurry of articles in local and national media suggesting that marijuana is increasingly driving Colorado visitors to hospitals. Other than feeling vaguely relieved to no longer count myself among the vacationers here, I wasn’t sure what to make of this information. I decided to take a firsthand look at the study on marijuana tourism and emergency department (ED) visits that inspired the coverage.

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El Chapo's Capture: A Distraction From the Disaster That Is the Drug War and Peña Nieto's Presidency

The internet is aflame with chatter about the recent recapture of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera, the world's most wanted man twice escaped from maximum security prison. The cacophony of commentary and ridiculous coverage about the event miss the real point: El Chapo's re-arrest is a distraction from the fact that the drug war, like the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto, is a devastating failure that's destroying Mexico.

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Activism Freed One Marijuana Lifer, But Other Pot Prisoners Still Need Our Help

More than 1,500 folks from 71 countries met in the DC Metro area last month at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference to come up with an exit strategy from the unwinnable war on drugs. The gathering left people inspired and energized.

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60 Minutes Profile on the Drug Czar: What They Get Right and Wrong

Last night, 60 Minutes tackled the drug war for a second week in a row when they did a nice profile on Michael Botticelli, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, commonly referred to as President Obama’s Drug Czar.

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The Sickening Use of Young People as Confidential Informants in the Drug War

Supporters of the drug war often claim that we need to wage this unwinnable war to “protect” young people. 60 Minutes ran an explosive piece last night showing one of the many ways that the war on drugs actually endangers young people: the sickening use of young students as confidential informants. 

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Did the U.S. Just Quash a UN Report Calling for Drug Decriminalization?

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) appeared set to call on governments to end the criminalization of drug use and possession, according to DPA Honorary Board Member Richard Branson – but in a dramatic turn of events withdrew its briefing paper under pressure from at least one country, according to the BBC.

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The Unforgettable Day I Witnessed Naloxone Save Amy's Life

I still vividly remember the first time I saw naloxone in action. The day began like an average one at the drop-in center—with the buzz of conversation, ringing phones and chaotic sounds of an old action movie on the television. Suddenly there was a panicked cry over the din: “My friend’s on the ground,” someone shouted from the restroom, “I don’t think she’s breathing.”

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Bad Prosecutors: Charging Street Level Drug Sellers with Murder is an Exercise in Deception

The use of heroin is increasing nationwide. As use rates have climbed so has the number of heroin-related overdose deaths. No matter who you ask, it’s a problem that deserves attention.

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Using Psychedelics Shouldn't Be a Crime

Psychedelic substances have been used around the world for thousands of years for religious and therapeutic purposes. In the 1950s and 1960s, psychedelics were considered promising treatments for a broad range of psychological conditions, and for otherwise-healthy people seeking to improve their creativity or well-being. Tens of thousands of people were introduced to them in clinical studies, as an adjunct to psychotherapy, or as part of a religious or spiritual practice.

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The Danger of Drug Scares: Why It's Time to Turn Down the K2 Hysteria

In case you missed it, the walking dead are taking over East Harlem. The New York Times referred to an area of high K2 use in East Harlem as "a street of zombies;" the New York Daily News (citing NYPD Commissioner Bratton) claims "Synthetic marijuana gives people abnormal strength, makes them dangerous" and the New York Post, quoting Assemblyman Mark Gjonaj, says "Our city streets are being taken over by zombies from a scene in 'The Walking Dead;'" and (again relying on accounts from Commissioner Bratton) the Post claims that "Weaponized weed triggers nude psychotic rampages." These stories are filled with misinformation, and the accounts of nude, psychotic rampages have already been debunked. But the fear and the imagery remain.

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'The Real History of Drugs' Educates Millions

The United States’ longest, unwinnable war is the "war on drugs." Despite decades of arrests and locking up millions of Americans, politicians and PSA’s urging us to “Just Say No,” illegal drugs are still as available as ever.

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Justice Demands We Fix our Broken Bail System

Mustafa Willis had a job and no criminal record.  After being arrested in Newark, he was forced to remain in jail for months because he could not afford to pay the amount of bail that was set for him.  While he was in jail, he lost his job and a close family member passed away.  Desperate, his family turned to a for-profit bail bond company to secure his release.  Eventually, the charges against him were dropped.  But he and the family members were saddled with a $7,000 bill!

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Forget El Chapo -  It's Time to Stop Empowering Cartels and End the Drug War

Whether it’s through a laundry cart or a mile-long ventilated tunnel, escaping from a maximum security prison in Mexico is clearly not as hard as it seems after one of the world’s most wanted fugitives, Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, made his way out of prison for the second time through a hole in his shower.

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A Long-Awaited Promise: Obama Gets Real About Criminal Justice Reform

"Mass incarceration makes our entire country worse off, and we need to do something about it." - President Obama in his July 14, 2015 speech to the NAACP annual conference

Fifteen years ago, when I first started working on drug policy and criminal justice reform issues, I never would have imagined these words coming out of the mouth of a sitting U.S. president. But then again, I would never have imagined Barack Obama.

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The Drug War Hurts Latinos, And We Have the Power to Stop It

I grew up translating for my mom. For as long as I can remember, I translated conversations between my mom and teachers, doctors, and sometimes even police officers. It was a coming-of-age experience atypical for many kids in the United States but familiar to those of us who grew up in this country with non-English-speaking parents.

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