The drug war fosters mass criminalization in the United States, with millions criminalized for mere possession and use of certain psychoactive substances. And since its modern launch in 1971, the drug war has further stigmatized and marginalized people for having the health problem of addiction. The drug war has exacerbated and institutionalized racial disparities. It has militarized the police and significantly expanded police powers while undermining constitutional rights. It has limited access to proven public health interventions such as syringe exchange programs, contributing to the spread of bloodborne illness, increased prevalence of infectious disease, and untimely, preventable deaths. And in the face of the nation’s worse drug crisis – the opioid crisis – the drug war limits access to proven opioid addiction treatment modalities (methadone, buprenorphine).
We must develop a sensible, health-based drug policy in the United States. It is time decriminalize possession and use of all drugs. Decriminalization must form the basis of modern drug policies grounded in compassion, science, and human rights. Katal is building a decriminalization and decarceration agenda in CT and NY to secure health, equity, and justice for everyone.