Dismantling the Federal Drug War: A Comprehensive Drug Decriminalization Framework (The Drug Policy Reform Act)

For most of the past century the United States has adopted increasingly punitive policies toward the possession, use and distribution of drugs; and, particularly in the last 50 years, has built a massive regime to enforce those policies.

Prohibition and the drug war have failed. Punitive policies have achieved no reduction in supplies or prices, but instead have created illicit markets that have fostered violence and unnecessarily risky and harmful conditions for people who use drugs. They have led to militarized tactics that thwart the spirit of the constitution and have led to the deaths of countless Black and Brown people. And the drug war apparatus has cost the federal government hundreds of billions of dollars in direct enforcement and incarceration costs, and collateral impacts on the lives of those caught in its path.

The time has come to try a new approach: drug decriminalization. The federal approach should be health focused, evidence-based, and respectful of self-determination. 

The DPA proposal for decriminalization, the Drug Policy Reform Act, takes these first steps in dismantling the punitive apparatus built up over the past 50 years. To begin refocusing federal drug policies, the legislation:

  • Shifts the authority for classifying and regulating controlled substances from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • Eliminates criminal penalties for all possession of personal-use quantities of controlled substances
  • Shifts federal resources away from futile enforcement strategies to supportive initiatives to protect the public health and safety

Learn more about the Drug Policy Reform Act (PDF)

Drug Decriminalization
Fact Sheet