Quote:"America's public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive." These were the words of President Richard Nixon on June 17th, 1971.
For those of us on the front lines, organizing in America's toughest neighborhoods, the idea is naive at best. At worst, it's a deliberate and subtly racist misrepresentation. We are fully aware of the myriad social ills plaguing communities all across this country, and the misuse of drugs simply is not the primary concern. We acknowledge that problematic drug use can have a life changing effect on individuals and families. But individuals and families forced to live in degraded indoor and outdoor environments, in socially neglected communities without viable economic opportunities, is equally problematic.
On a daily basis, we are confronted with the realities of America's enemies, including the effects of the lack of affordable housing, the fate of students attending low performing public schools, the assault on women's rights, and the ongoing disregard for environmental laws. These conditions are created and perpetuated by social determinants that are deeply rooted in a system that is marred by inequities and injustices, and they deserve the time and attention of our elected officials. Instead, our resources are disproportionately devoted to a war on drugs that has proven to exacerbate these very problems.
While our elected officials play politics, thousands more precious American lives will be lost to preventable drug overdoses. Many more will contract Hepatitis C and HIV through intravenous drug use. Millions of black and brown men and women will have their life expectancy reduced due to mass incarceration and economic and social marginalization. Scores of families will be needlessly torn apart. Urban and rural communities across the country will be destabilized by the violence of drug prohibition. And legislators at every level of our government will still be grappling with their fiscal nightmares, trying to balance budgets that in years past have allocated literally millions of dollars to a failed policy. It's failed to make our neighborhoods any safer, it's failed to provide adequate treatment for drug addiction, and it has utterly failed to eradicate drugs from our society.
Not only is the racist and anti-social nature on the "war on drugs" put in the spotlight that too many refuse to see, but its legal counterpart, prescription drugs, gets too little oversight and too much protection. Look at how too many new drugs are "fast-tracked" to market with minimal testing--and how quickly they get pulled...or quickly they aren't pulled. Look at the legal protections for drug, esp. vaccine, manufacturers, and the difficulty in suing them. One of the richest industries in the USA is one of the most poorly watched.