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As Americans throughout the nation proceed to take to the streets and demand that police departments get defunded, drug coverage specialists have pointed to the War on Drugs as a salient place to begin for significant reform.

In a brand new blog post published by Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, authors Katherine Harris and Alfred Glassell argued that America’s obsession with combating narcotics crimes has facilitated the militarization of home policing. And to attain actual reform in legislation enforcement, Harris and Glassell suggest, we should first finish the War on Drugs altogether.

“Collectively, proactive drug enforcement has normalized overzealous policing, which leads to unnecessary citizen-police interactions that have the potential to escalate,” the blog post reads. “The simplest and most effective way to end, or at least greatly reduce, these encounters is for the federal and state governments to remove their legal basis by decriminalizing low-level drug possession.”

Whether it’s stop-and-frisk encounters in closely policed narcotics “hotspots,” surging police division budgets, or no-knock drug warrants just like the one which led to the homicide of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, confronting drug crimes has spurred numerous cases of police violence. But somewhat than stem the tide of lethal medicine like fentanyl, most narcotics policing targets customers and low-level sellers, persevering with a cycle of incarceration, group disinvestment, and elevated policing. 

And the numbers are bleak. According to the nonprofit group The Last Prisoner Project, there are nonetheless at the very least 40,000 Americans locked up for hashish offenses, regardless of adult-use hashish legalization permitted in 11 states and a few type of a medical marijuana program on the books in 33 states. Furthermore, the organization says that hashish legalization within the US would “save roughly $7.7 billion per year in averted enforcement costs and would yield an additional $6 billion in tax revenue.”

Thus, Harris and Glassell contend, defunding narcotics policing in favor of a health-focused hurt discount strategy would profit each drug customers and society as an entire. 

“No one wants to see people continue to die from fentanyl-laced street drugs, but this problem, itself borne from prohibition, can be better resolved through harm reduction interventions, not militant enforcement,” Harris and Glassell wrote. “Ending the criminalization of drugs and the people who use them will not end police violence. But it is part of the hard work of structural change that lies ahead.” 

At one level within the weblog submit, the authors sum up the failure of prohibition in a succinct sentence: “The 40-year War on Drugs, unwinnable from the start, is a policy failure that has come at great cost, to society generally and to minority communities especially.”

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