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The War on Drugs Isn't Working, Proposed Drug Policy Could Widen Racial Disparities, Dark Web Drug Sales Crack Down, and Climbing Drug Usage Rates Despite $1T War on Drugs
Here is a recap of some of the top industry-related news stories of the week:
As a chief constable, I’ve seen enough: it’s time to end the ‘war on drugs’ Richard Lewis
Cleveland Chief Constable Richard Lewis said the war on drugs is actually a public health crisis that requires a change in approach. Mr. Lewis explained that the war on drugs has not only been a failure, but has been counterproductive.
While the war on drugs has been going on for 50 years, the numbers of drug-related deaths are being recorded in numbers higher than ever.
Mr. Lewis also said, "In 21 years of police service I have slowly, perhaps too slowly, come to the conclusion that framing this crisis as a criminal justice problem has not simply been unhelpful, but counterproductive.”
Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner agrees that a heroin treatment scheme should be funded by the health sector rather than police.
He said, “In the crime arena we still have to address the challenges and the dealers and the supply, but there is definitely more work needed within the public health sector to ensure we are providing appropriate support for people who want to come off [drugs] and want to their change their lifestyle."
A proposed Biden drug policy could widen racial disparities, civil rights groups warn
Reform groups are protesting a Biden administration proposal that has potential to increase prison sentences for certain synthetic opioids. Reform groups argue that this would exacerbate already existing racial disparities in the system.
The proposal would schedule under the law many drugs chemically related to fentanyl.
Since the war on drugs began, African American and Latino people have been disproportionately affected.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) says the proposal is in response to the current overdose epidemic and that it includes more money for drug treatment and work to promote research on what works best to curb the epidemic.
Acting ONDCP chief Regina LaBelle says the plan is a way to address the “fastest growing driver of overdoses in the country, while protecting civil rights and encouraging scientific research.” The proposal also includes $10.7 billion to expand access to substance use prevention, treatment, recovery, and harm reduction services.
The proposal also includes a "safety valve" where judges could vacate or reduce prison terms for people convicted of certain crimes related to fentanyl-type substances, if those substances are later taken off the most restricted list.
The coalition is urging congressional leaders to consider the effects of the harsh cocaine laws in the 1980s and 1990s.
Authorities on 3 Continents Crack Down on Dark Web Drug Sales
Law enforcement agencies have disrupted a global drug trafficking operation on the dark web, leading to the arrests of over 150 people, and the seizure of $31.6 million in cash and virtual currencies, firearms, and substantial quantities of opioids, amphetamines, cocaine, MDMA, and several other drugs and counterfeit medicines.
This event follows the takedown of DarkMarket in January, which at the time was the world’s largest online marketplace for illicit goods.
The F.B.I. and other international law enforcement agencies used the information from DarkMarket to identify drug vendors and buyers who had sold drugs, weapons, and other illicit services across Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Britain, and the United States.
Investigators had looked for people who had used the dark internet to sell illicit drugs and drug making equipment that had helped fuel America’s opioid crisis. Prosecutors targeted people who had operated home laboratories to manufacture fake prescription pain drugs that contained fentanyl, methamphetamine and other illegal, lethal drugs.
America has spent over a trillion dollars fighting the war on drugs. 50 years later, drug use in the U.S. is climbing again.
“[The goals of the war on drugs] were to literally eradicate all of the social, economic and health ills associated with drugs and drug abuse,” said Christopher Coyne, professor of economics at George Mason University.
For 50 years, American has spent over a trillion dollars enforcing its drug policy, yet many say it did not work.
“The drug war is a failed policy and the things that they said would happen — people would stop using drugs, communities would get back together, we’d be safe, they’d get drugs off the street — those things didn’t happen,” said Kassandra Frederique, executive director at the Drug Policy Alliance, a national nonprofit that works to end the war on drugs.
While there was a decline in the early years of drug policies, drug use numbers are climbing again, with the number of illicit drug users over the age of 12 nearly reaching the peak from 40 years ago.
In 2020, overdose deaths in the United States exceeded 90,000, compared with 70,630 in 2019, despite the federal government spending more money than ever on drug policies. From 1981 to 2020, the federal government increased spending by 1090%.
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