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Warring with the War on Drugs

Maya Rhodan | 4/15/2013, 1:02 a.m.
Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website www.ibw21.org and www.northstarnews.com . To send a message, arrange media interviews or speaking engagements, Dr. Daniels can be reached via email at info@ibw21.org.

WASHINGTON (NNPA) - Ron Daniels, president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century, declared a war on the War on Drugs last week, saying it is time to end the failed public policy.

“The War on Drugs is a racially biased policy and strategy. It is the new Jim Crow,” Daniels said. “We come today to claim that we’ve suffered enough … it’s time to bring an end to an ill-conceived and destructive policy and strategy.”

Daniels made his declaration of war on Thursday – the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – at the National Press Club.

Daniels and members of the IBW are calling on members of the African American community who were largely responsible for his re-election to rally together for “The War on Drugs is a War on Us Day of Direct Action” on June 17 to urge President Barack Obama to directly address issues that have an overwhelming negative impact on the Black community.

The federal government declared “war” on drugs in 1971, when then-President Richard Nixon cited drug use as America’s Public Enemy No.1 and an overall threat to national security. In the years following, policies and statutes came into play that penalized users and distributors of illicit substances, particularly African Americans.

IBW believes the War on Drugs has led to the mass incarceration of Black and Brown people and has aided in the creation of a new slavery in which prisoners are used as free labor at the benefit of large corporations.

According to the NAACP criminal justice fact sheet, 14 million Whites and 2.6 million Blacks report using illicit drugs, yet Blacks are incarcerated for drug offenses at a rate 10 times that of Whites.

African Americans represent 12 percent of the total population of drug users, according to the fact sheet, yet 38 percent of those arrested for drug offenses and 59 percent of those are currently in state prison for a drug offense.

“Now it is time for the president to directly respond to the state of emergency in America’s dark ghettos by having the audacity to end the War on Drugs and vigorously promote investment in jobs, economic and social programs to heal Black families and communities,” Daniels said.

The Day of Direct Action, set on the anniversary of the executive order that started the War on Drugs in 1971, calls on Obama to completely eliminate the disparity between powdered and crack cocaine, issue an executive order to end the War on Drugs, end prison labor, support publically the decriminalization of marijuana, and allocate more federal funds for drug education, counseling and treatment.

IBW also calls on the president to begin to develop public sector jobs and economic development programs that have priority inclusion for ex-prisoners.

Courtney Stewart, a formerly incarcerated person and current chairman of the Reentry Network for Returning Citizens, a D.C.-based advocacy group, joined Daniels in calling on Obama to end to the War on Drugs, and spoke at the press conference on behalf of the ex-prisoner community.