'Time to reverse course': NYT Editorial Board endorses ending the War on Drugs
The New York Times Editorial Board on Wednesday called for ending the decades-long War on Drugs due to its abject failures and the profound harm that it has inflicted since its inception under President Richard Nixon.
"Mired in controversy and wanting to appear tough on crime, Nixon tacked right just months before resigning from office, and nearly every president after him — from Reagan to Clinton to Bush — followed the course he set. Before long, the funding ratio between public health and criminal justice measures flipped. Police and prison budgets soared, and anything related to health, medicine or social services was left to dangle by its own shoestring," the Board recalled of Nixon's collapsing presidency.
"The results of that shift are clear: Drug use is soaring. More Americans are dying of overdoses than at any point in modern history. It's time to reverse course," the editors wrote. "Drug use and addiction are as old as humanity itself, and historians and policymakers likely will debate whether the war on drugs was ever winnable, or what its true aims even were. In the meantime, it's clear that to exit the current morass, Americans will have to restore public health to the center of its approach."
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While change is indeed underway, the Board noted that there are key areas whose full potentials are still untapped.
Reforms such as repealing the "crack house statute" and eliminating the sentencing disparities between cocaine and crack should be prioritized, the Board opined. They added that "the 'Len Bias Law,' which enables courts to send anyone involved in an overdose death to prison, should also be amended, so that family members or fellow drug users aren’t criminalized for calling 911 in a crisis."
Treatment, rather than incarceration for addiction, should be more heavily funded, the paper's leaders argued. They suggested that "one way to shift this calculus is to create incentives for more doctors and medical professionals to treat addiction. Lifting the special waiver that doctors need to prescribe buprenorphine — as federal lawmakers recently did — will help."
Policymakers, the Board continued, need to "address root causes" such as harm reduction and focus on exploring evidence-based solutions that will improve lives instead of destroying them.
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"To fully replace the war on drugs with something more humane or more effective, the public will have to come to terms with the prejudices that war helped instill," the Board concluded. "That means accepting that people who use drugs are still members of our communities and are still worthy of compassion and care. It also means acknowledging the needs and wishes of people who don't use drugs, including streets free of syringe litter and neighborhoods free of drug-related crime. These goals are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they go hand in hand. But to make them a reality, lawmakers and other officials will have to lead the way."
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The New York Times Editorial Board's full column is available at this link (subscription required).
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