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4 Signs the War on Drugs is Ending

The “War on Drugs” may have been made “public enemy number one” in 1971 by then-president Richard Nixon but, the hard stance on anti-drug policies that have been implemented by administration after administration have established an American history deeply entrenched in this idea. Ever since Prohibition in 1914, and even before, there has been a position that we need to “fight” against drugs in this country. Lately, however, there have been signs that a new, progressive way of doing things is taking root. Here are 4 signs that the war on drugs is ending.

#1. The Legalization of Marijuana

Recently, Colorado and Washington State have made history by legalizing recreational marijuana – and the first political jurisdictions anywhere in the world – to approve the legal regulation of marijuana. This is certainly an indication of the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition in the U.S. Alcohol Prohibition repeals began at the state level in the late 1920s, which ultimately led to the repeal of federal Prohibition. In this way, Washington and Colorado are paving the way for change on a national level. It’s noteworthy to mention that 50% of Americans are now in favor of taxing and regulating marijuana.

#2. California Votes to Reform “Three Strikes” Mandatory Minimum Law

Californians are tired of their state’s severe “three strikes” law – and it shows. After nearly 20 years and spending over $20 billion, they voted overwhelmingly to reform the draconian law. Intended to get violent offenders off the street, the law mostly ended up punishing – harshly – those it was not intended to punish. Just as the state set a trend in the 1990s for harsh minimum sentencing laws, it’s possible that their latest, progressive political act will set a new trend across the country.

#3. Harm Reduction Strategies

With the latest macabre trend in drug-related overdoses across the country, states across the nation are opting more and more for what is known as harm reduction solutions. Two effective strategies that are already being enacted in order to reduce overdose deaths are: “911 Good Samaritan” immunity laws, and making available a narcotic antidote.

The 911 Good Samaritan laws make it safe for someone to report a drug overdose or bring someone who is overdosing to the hospital without fear of punishment. This law has now spread to 10 states –California, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and Washington State – with many others considering adopting it, too.

The narcotic antidote, naloxone (also known as Narcan) is a drug that, if given in time, shortly after an opiate overdose, can reverse the effects and restore normal breathing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report this year crediting the drug with deterring over 10,000 overdose deaths.

#4. Politicians Are Saying No to the War on Drugs

And they’re winning.

Even though vast majority of Americans seem to know that the war on drugs has failed, it has remained a “third rail” issue among elected officials because they don’t want to seem ‘soft on crime.’ This trend began to wane in 2012 with campaigning politicians speaking out against the drug war and still winning elections.

For example, Beto O’Rourke, a supporter of the legalization of marijuana, defeated eight-term incumbent Sylvestre Reyes in the Democratic primary for Texas’s 16th congressional district. Congressman Reyes was a steadfast supporter of the war on drugs and tried to use O’Rourke’s position on pot as a major issue in campaign – which obviously backfired.

Other examples:

  • In the Democratic primary for attorney general in Oregon, Ellen Rosenblum won a (surprising) victory over the favorite, Dwight Holton, in a race during which medical marijuana became a major issue.
  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is known to be eyeing the presidency, supports the decriminalization of marijuana.
  • Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel, is also for marijuana decriminalization.

With politicians of this caliber supporting marijuana decriminalization, this is a clear indication that the political stance on the war on drugs is changing.

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