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Every 25 seconds, someone is arrested for drug possession. One in five incarcerated people are locked up for drug offenses. The amount of people in prison for drug offenses is in the tens of thousands.
Yet lawmakers are answering citizen initiatives and are legalizing those ever-so-scary drugs, namely cannabis. Good.
Let’s start with some background. The war on drugs is America’s longest war, starting 50 years ago under President Richard Nixon. At the time, Nixon called drug abuse “public enemy number one.” In 1973, Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Administration, which federally enforces the war on drugs. The agency sees its funding bolstered with each passing year, putting more and more money into the war on drugs.
Presidents on both sides of the aisle continued the war, from Ronald Reagan, reiterating that the war on drugs was one of America’s most pressing issues to Bill Clinton raising a very prominent anti-drug voice into his cabinet. Even Joe Biden’s administration fired staffers for recreational cannabis use just a few weeks ago, despite the fact that smoking marijuana is legal in Washington, D.C.
The biggest issue at hand is that the war on drugs is inherently rooted in racism, and we see that in its history.
The term “marijuana” holds racist roots. In the 1930s, with the depression looming and xenophobia rising, the United States government saw an opportunity. They rebranded cannabis as “marijuana” and criminalized it in order to stoke racist fears of Mexican immigrants.
One way or another, this darkness has got to give, and it seems like the time has come