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Advocates pushing for drug policy changes due to current effects on people of color

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Posted at 8:11 AM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 10:11:15-05

About every 20 seconds, someone in the United States is arrested on a drug charge, according to FBI data.

A vast majority of those arrests are for possession and it’s largely the result of the government led initiative that started in the 70s, dubbed the "War on Drugs.”

Data shows it leads to more racial profiling, and higher arrests and convictions of people of color. But the impact and bias is much broader.

“We realized that the harms were not just in getting people arrested or people being in prison. It was the fact that people are getting their kids taken away. It’s the fact that people were getting deported,” said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance

The Drug Policy Alliance spent the last five years looking into data and drug policies, and talking to people within other systems, like education, employment, housing, child welfare, immigration and public benefits.

One policy that impacts everyone is drug testing for jobs.

“So, oftentimes people will think, ‘I don't use drugs, I haven't been arrested, the drug war is not my issue,’ and what we're saying is that your privacy, the right to what you get to put in your own body is challenged every single day, because this infrastructure is still in place,” said Frederique.

Examples of the impact of the “War on Drugs” beyond arrests were laid out in a series of reports and an interactive website uprootingthedrugwar.org.

It's meant to educate the public, to get those involved in these systems to reconsider their policies, to look for more rehabilitative opportunities rather than punishment, and to change perspective.

“But part of the narrative and the power of the drug war is the mental models that they make, which limit the way that we can see each other,” said Frederique. “And so, this project is really about unearthing the different assumptions, so that we can start giving people different vantage points of the people that society has told us have little to no use.”