Significant condemnation of US drugs policy

In a majority vote at their 102nd Annual Conference at Los Angeles on Tuesday, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has passed an historic resolution calling for an end to America’s ‘war on drugs’.

The decision comes shortly after the Global Commission on Drug Policy gathered in June to determine that the drug war had been ‘a failure’. Speaking on Tuesday, the organization’s President and CEO Benjamin Jealous said that “today the NAACP has taken a major step towards equity, justice and effective law enforcement.”

In a press release on Tuesday, the NAACP explained that policing of drugs in America is wholly discriminatory and has introduced into communities of colour deep social and economic problems. America boasts the highest rate of incarceration in the world and has attracted increasing attention for its flawed and racist drug policies.

African Americans are thirteen times more likely to be imprisoned for the same drug-related offences as their white counterparts. As a result, an African-American man has a one in three chance of spending time in prison over his lifetime. “This dual system of drug law enforcement that serves to keep African-Americans and other minorities under lock and key and in prison must be exposed and eradicated” explained Alice Huffman, President of the California State Conference of the NAACP.

The overall message of the NAACP resolution – that there exist economically and socially beneficial alternatives to the current US drugs policy – is captured in its title, ‘A Call to End the War on Drugs, Allocate Funding to Investigate Substance Abuse Treatment, Education, and Opportunities in Communities of Color for A Better Tomorrow’. Rather than sending offenders to prison, the resolution calls for the wide-scale creation of treatment centres, rehabilitation programs and methadone clinics, all of which have been found to be effective.

The US government will, it is estimated, spend $54 billion on its drugs war this year alone. Support for the coalition against the war on drugs has enjoyed swelling support over the last few years, but the NAACP decision to add their voice to the chorus is a significant one. The organization is religious and, politically, it has traditionally been fairly conservative. The strong stance it took on Tuesday cannot be ignored.

The NAACP resolution was voted in on the same day that a census report demonstrated that the wealth gap in the US has widened to record proportions: white Americans are now eighteen times wealthier than Hispanics and twenty times wealthier than African Americans.