Drug War: ACLU Urges Congress To Reconsider "Destructive"

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 21 Jun 1999 05:19:05 -0700 (PDT)


FWD  Wednesday, June 16, 1999

     FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

     ACLU Urges Congress To Reconsider Destructive Drug War Strategy

WASHINGTON -- Testifying before a House subcommittee, the American Civil
Liberties Union today told lawmakers that the most effective way to
control drug abuse is through regulation, not incarceration.

"Our 85-year experiment with criminal prohibition of drugs has not
solved the problems it was meant to solve and has created other serious
problems resulting from the excessive and unprincipled use of the
government's police power," ACLU Executive Director Ira Glasser told the
House panel.

Rather than continue to criminalize drug use, Glasser urged Congress to
begin the "difficult process" of developing a system for regulating the
availability of drugs.

Testifying before the Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources
panel of the House Government Reform Committee, Glasser noted that since
1973, when the harsh Rockefeller-era drug laws were passed, the use of
criminal sanctions has increased exponentially. Incarceration has gone
up from a few hundred thousand to more than 1.7 million; between 1985
and 1995, 85 percent of that increase was due to drug convictions, the
bulk of them for nonviolent crimes, according to the Bureau of Justice
Statistics.

People of color are paying the highest price for this strategy, Glasser
said, because of the "stunning and unjustifiable" racial disparities in
sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine, as well as other
racial disparities in how drug laws are enforced. Citing federal
government statistics, he noted that only 13 percent of monthly drug
users are black, but 37 percent are arrested for possession; 55 percent
are convicted of possession, and 74 percent are imprisoned for
possession.

Glasser also charged that federal criminalization of drug crimes is
clogging the court system. About half of all federal drug arrests are for
marijuana -- more than 80 percent of them for simple possession. Civil
asset forfeiture -- what one historian has called a government license to
steal -- is widespread at both federal and state levels, allowing law
enforcement to seize the cars, homes and property of people accused of drug
crimes, even if they are never convicted.

"The government has demonized all drug use without differentiation, has
systematically and hysterically resisted science and has turned millions
of stable and productive citizens into criminals," Glasser said.

             Glasser's testimony can be found online at:
             http://www.aclu.org/congress/l061699a.html

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