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War on drugs


America’s War on Drugs was first declared in 1971 by President Nixon in response to the high rates of heroin addiction among soldiers returning from Viet Nam. It is estimated that the total cost of this war, including the investigation, prosecution and incarceration of drug users and dealers is at least $50 billion each year, or about $2.5 trillion since Nixon’s declaration. Critics claim all this money has not changed our addiction rate but it has given us the world’s highest rate of incarceration. There are about 450,000 people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses on any given day. Advocates claim this punishment falls disproportionately on people of color. African-Americans make up about half of the state and local prisoners incarcerated for drug crimes, even though the rates of drug usage in black and white populations are about equal.

Critics claim the unjust rates of incarceration among blacks, Hispanics and the poor show why this war we have been fighting for decades should itself be considered illegal. They say that since incarceration does little to cure addiction, we need to address this problem as a health issue, not a criminal one. It is estimated that nearly one third of all black men are ineligible to vote because of felony convictions for non-violent drug-related offenses. Critics say this unnoticed and unfair effect of the War on Drugs denies many citizens representation and prevents them from participating in the governing process.

Pending Legislation: S.481 - Democracy Restoration Act of 2021
Sponsor: Sen. Benjamin Cardin (MD)
Status: Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Chair: Sen. Dick Durban (IL)












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Poll Opening Date
July 19, 2021
Poll Closing Date
July 25, 2021


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