June 17 will mark 40 years since President Richard Nixon, citing drug abuse as “Public Enemy No. 1,” officially 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 joint 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,” Nadelmann said. “We are enlisted unprecedented numbers of powerful and distinguished individuals to voice their dissent publicly, and organizing in cities and states to investigate new dialogues and directions in local policies.”
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, D.C.
Prominent elected officials, celebrities and VIPs, along with Nadelmann, will convene for a press conference on Thursday, June 16 at 1 p.m. at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. (555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW) 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 or 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 Anna, 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 United States 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:
• Washington, D.C.: Leaders from African American and religious communities, including Rev. Jesse Jackson and Dr. Ron Daniels, will hold a forum at the National Press Club on June 17 to denounce current Drug War policies. Leaders will call for a new direction in drug policy that reduces the role of the criminal justice system and that addresses the devastating impact of drug policies on black communities.
• Chicago: Hundreds of Chicagoans will gather at the James R. Thompson Center to rally against the drug policies that have led to injustices such as the extreme racial disparities in Illinois’s prisons and jails.
• Los Angeles: Grassroots organizations and students, including Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Pico Youth and Family Center, Mothers United to End the War on Drugs, All Of Us Or None, Hornies Unidos and other criminal justice organizations, will stage a Day of Action to call for an end to the War On Drugs and mass incarceration. Also, the William C. Velasquez Institute will host a forum in Los Angeles with top Latino leaders to discuss the impact of the Drug War on Latino communities.
• New York City: Advocates, community leaders and elected officials will attend a forum and silent vigil at the Harlem State Office Building to highlight the impacts of the Drug War on New York communities. The event is being organized by Women On the Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH).
• New Orleans: Local criminal justice organizations will commemorate the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s declaration of War On Drugs with a Second Line March that is a “funeral for the failed War On Drugs.”
To see a compilation of events around the nation, click here