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Letter: Drug war is waged in a racist manner

Drug war is waged in a racist manner

I am writing in response to Rod Watson’s June 13 column, “Vicious cycle of injustice is black plague.” The drug war has been waged in a racist manner since its inception. The Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 was preceded by a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment. Opium was identified with Chinese laborers, marijuana with Mexicans and cocaine with African-Americans. Racial profiling continues to be the norm, despite similar rates of drug use for minorities and whites. Support for the drug war would end overnight if whites were incarcerated for drugs at the same rate as minorities.

Criminal records are inappropriate as health interventions and ineffective as deterrents. Thanks to public education, legal tobacco use has declined considerably, without any need to criminalize smokers or imprison tobacco farmers. Mandatory minimum prison sentences, civil asset forfeiture, random drug testing and racial profiling are not the most cost-effective means of discouraging unhealthy choices. Drug abuse is bad, but the drug war is worse.

Robert Sharpe

Policy Analyst

Common Sense for Drug Policy

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