A new chapter of change in the United States began four years ago when Barack Obama was instituted as Head-of-State. This year, his re-election proves there's still a long ways to go. The "war on drugs" continues to be a pressing matter in a country torn by tax burdens and unfair policies, especially for those in and the aspiring-to-be middle class.
In a recent op-ed titled "The War on Drugs: A Shake-down, Not a Fair Shake for the Middle Class," writer/attorney Kumar Rao faces the war head-on:
In the wake of President Obama's re-election and the fervor around "fiscal cliff" negotiations, issues related to middle class empowerment and fairness are rightfully at the center of our national policy agenda. Decisions related to tax burden allocations and spending priorities are being made that have the potential to affect the middle class for a generation. It is a watershed moment for our nation to end policies that have unfairly kept people from entering or remaining in the middle class. The "war on drugs" is one such policy. It has become the longest standing war in American history -- spanning half a century, while being waged mostly within our borders and against our own people.
President Obama stated that his re-election gave him a mandate "to help middle-class families and families that are working hard to try and get into the middle class." The president spoke inspiringly throughout his campaign about the idea that everyone is entitled to a fair shake. And he continues to speak specifically about economic policies to bring about this progress. The war on drugs is an impediment to realizing that vision. Instead of giving people a fair shake, we are giving them a shake-down.
In New York City, for example, marijuana possession remains the most common arrest charge within the criminal justice system. Indeed, the vast bulk of all charges pending in the system are drug related and a byproduct of the aggressive, almost hysterical policing of residents (overwhelmingly of color) within our cities. Beyond the short-term humiliation that people must endure while being stopped and frisked, or booked and jailed, the longer term effects for both individuals and communities can be disastrous.
A recent FBI report, for example, found that there were 1.5 million drug arrests across the country in 2011. Through punitive enforcement and ever expanding legal and social penalties, these arrests have devastated individuals, families and whole communities in its wake -- all without actually addressing or rectifying the real damage drug addiction can actually have on people. And quite expectedly, they represent impassable roadblocks for families hoping to stay in the middle class or those with aspirations to join it. The war on drugs has prevented and continues to preclude mass groups of people from upward mobility -- keeping them locked into legal limbo, economic stagnation and state-sponsored social instability.
Read the full article here.