Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384 or Michael Blain at (646) 335-2241
The National Black Caucus of State Legislators made history last weekend by passing a resolution that both condemns the war on drugs and commits the lawmakers to developing alternatives. The resolution was sponsored by Delegate Salima Marriott of Maryland. Specifically, it singles out issues like reform of mandatory minimum sentences and diversion of nonviolent drug offenders into treatment.
The resolution states, in part, “The war on drugs has failed […;] and while states have continually increased their expenditures to wage the war on drugs, policies which rely heavily on arrest and incarceration have proved costly and ineffective at addressing these issues.”
“The war on drugs is failing everybody, but no one is being devastated by it like African Americans,” said Michael Blain, director of public policy at the Drug Policy Alliance. “That’s why it’s so historic that the people who represent the communities who have the most to gain from reform are taking the lead in addressing this problem, and finding solutions.”
Critics of the war on drugs point out the extreme racial disparities in application of drug laws. According to Human Rights Watch, while blacks and whites have similar rates of drug use, blacks go to jail at thirteen times the rate of whites. Although African Americans comprise only 12.2 percent of the population, they make up 38 percent of those arrested for drug offenses and 59 percent of those convicted of drug offenses. In New York, 93% of those incarcerated under the state’s notorious Rockefeller drug laws are African American and Latino.