June 17: 40th Anniversary of Nixon’s Declaration of a “War on Drugs”

Press Release June 7, 2011
Media Contact

Tony Newman 646-335-5384 or Tommy McDonald 510-229-5215</p>

June 17 will mark forty years since President Richard Nixon, citing drug abuse as “public enemy No. 1”, declared a "war on drugs." A trillion dollars and millions of ruined lives later, a political consensus is emerging that the war on drugs is a counterproductive failure.

The Drug Policy Alliance is leading advocates all across the country in marking this auspicious date with a day of action to raise awareness about the catastrophic failure of drug prohibition and to call for an exit strategy from the failed war on drugs.

“Some anniversaries provide an occasion for celebration, others a time for reflection, still others a time for action,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Forty years after President Nixon declared his war on drugs, we're seizing upon this anniversary to prompt both reflection and action. And we're asking everyone who harbors reservations about the war on drugs — to join us in this enterprise.

“The objective is to work with legislators who dare to raise the important questions, by organizing public forums and online communities where citizens can take action. We are enlisting unprecedented numbers of powerful and distinguished individuals to voice their dissent publicly, and organizing in cities and states to instigate new dialogues and directions in local policies,” Nadelmann added.

Fifty events will be held in 15 states, including major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and New Orleans. The day of action will be highlighted by a high-profile event with elected officials in Washington, DC. 

Prominent elected officials, celebrities and VIP’s, along with Nadelmann, will convene for a press conference on Thursday, June 16 at 1 p.m. at the Newseum in Washington, DC (555 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.) to set the stage for the anniversary and day of action.

The press conference and actions come on the heels of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which released a report on June 2 calling for a major paradigm shift in how our society deals with drugs, including decriminalization and legal regulation. The report sent a jolt around the world, generating thousands of international media stories.  The commission is comprised of international dignitaries including Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations; Richard Branson, entrepreneur, founder of the Virgin Group; and the former Presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Switzerland. Representing the U.S. on the commission are George P. Shultz, Paul Volcker, and John Whitehead. 

“What's really needed is the sort of reckoning that identifies as the problem not just drug addiction but prohibition as well — and that aims to reduce the role of criminalization in drug control to the maximum extent possible while enhancing public safety and health,” Nadelmann said. “What better way to mark the 40th anniversary of the war on drugs than by breaking the taboos that have precluded frank assessment of the costs and failures of drug prohibition as well as its varied alternatives.”

Day of Action events include:

To see a compilation of events around the nation please visit: http://www.nomoredrugwar.org/take-action

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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