Saturday, October 5, 2013

The War on Drugs: The shame of the baby-boom generation.

The movement to legalize marijuana is getting more attention of late. At the recent PA Democratic State Committee meeting, delegates were raising the issues with candidates for the 2014 gubernatorial and legislative races. The State Committee Black Caucus considered a resolution in favor of legalization but decided that it made more sense at this point to raise the issue with candidates.

In support of these efforts,I've decided to re cycle an op-ed piece, “War on drugs: Time for boomers to 'fess up” published in the Philadelphia Daily News in 2006. The Daily News editors are responsible for the silly title. My original title was "The War on Drugs: A War Against Women"; I was emphasizing the gender dimension as I was writing in my capacity as then president of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Organization for Women.

The op-ed Is unfortunately still timely. Too many people are being locked up, too many lives ruined for low level drug offenses. From the op-ed:

The willingness to incarcerate large numbers of people for minor drug offenses is the shame of the baby-boom generation.

A generation of young people in the '60s and early '70s experimented with drugs and for the most part did so with impunity.

Many powerful and successful women and men in our society experimented with drugs in their youth. But their careers were not derailed; their families were not torn apart. Sadly, they are now willing to ignore the fact that another generation of women and men are being incarcerated in appalling numbers for drug-related crimes.

In 1972, Ms. Magazine published a petition headlined: "We have had abortions." Fifty-three well-known U.S. women declared that they had undergone abortions - despite state laws rendering the procedure illegal.

Perhaps we need a petition like this to address the issue of illegal drugs. (I'm not equating abortion with using illegal drugs, just suggesting a strategy to call attention to a problem.)

We need people who experimented with drugs and became productive citizens who are willing to say, "I used illegal drugs and went on to become a productive member of society. I and other members of my generation were not incarcerated for long periods of time for what would be considered low-level drug offenses. The current war on drug is having a devastating impact on low-income families (particularly low-income communities of color) and our current policy of mass incarceration must be stopped."

Such a petition might be what we need to get action on Pennsylvania House Bill HB 751, which seeks to address prison overcrowding by abolishing mandatory minimums for certain non-violent offenses. Any takers? *

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