The ACLU and NAACP have written a bold letter calling for an end to the DEA’s “devastating failure” known as the War on Drugs.
The nation’s top civil rights groups have requested the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) suspend enforcement activities until congressional leaders can conduct an oversight hearing on current practices.
Opportunities to Improve Public Safety and Build Trust Between Police and Communities is the title of the letter sent to several high-ranking members on the Appropriations Committee and the Commerce, Justice, Science Committee. It was written in response to the president’s budget request for fiscal year 2020.
The suggestions signed by representatives of four of the nation’s leading civil rights and criminal reform groups, the ACLU, NAACP, the Drug Policy Alliance, and the Sentencing Project, largely oppose budgetary spending on what they consider “heavy-handed, ineffective, unscientific, and deeply damaging” approaches by the DEA.
“In short, the DEA is the lead entity executing the war on drugs. If we are to ever to treat drugs as a health issue, not a criminal issue, then the DEA’s enforcement activities must be suspended until an oversight hearing is done by the House Judiciary Committee,” the letter stated.
President Donald Trump’s request for the 2020 budget proposes a $12 million increase in spending for the DEA. The groups do not support the request and offered words of caution to funding the “enforcement-only approaches to addressing drug abuse and overdose epidemic.”
“As the lead law enforcement agency for drug enforcement at the national level, the DEA is emblematic of how the drug war has been a devastating failure,” the groups wrote.
Civil Rights and Criminal Reform Groups Call out DEA
The authors of the letter call to attention the DEA’s unwillingness to change policies that are not working while pointing out the harm done by the DEA’s war on marijuana, especially on communities of color.
“It has used its power to oppose all drug policy changes that represent a shift from the drug war model in any way, such as rescheduling, and legalizing marijuana, and reducing harsh drug sentences,” the letter stated.
The DEA enforcement suspension request was one section of many suggestions written to Congress on behalf of the civil rights and criminal reform groups. Other recommendations include an increase of funding for opioid abuse programs and increased funding for Second Chance Act programs to reduce rates of repeat incarceration by providing access to services to help them with re-entry into life outside of prison.
The recommendation letter can be viewed in full via Marijuana Moment, here.
Data Shows War on Drugs is a War on People of Color
According to the ACLU’s original analysis, marijuana arrests now account for over half of all drug arrests in the U.S. Of the 8.2 million marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88 percent were for possession of marijuana.
Even though evidence suggests white and black people use cannabis at a similar rate, black people are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana, some studies show even higher percentages.
Reports from the NAACP show that while African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32 percent of the U.S. population, they represent 56 percent of all incarcerated people in 2015. The same report shows that if people of color were incarcerated at the same rates as whites, prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40 percent.
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