Ira Glasser, former director of the American Civil Liberties Union and the president of the board of the Drug Policy Allience addressed the participants of the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on 12 November, 2009. In his speech he drew interesting parallels between the civil rights movement of Afro-Americans and the drug policy reform movement. What is more, he points out the so called war on drugs is only a continuation of the war on communities of color. Not long after the Civil Rights Act came into effect in 1965, Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs to create a new arena to fight civil rights and keep Latinos and Afro-Americans in segregation. And indeed, the war on drugs became a war on people of color. According to a 2006 report by the American Civil Liberties Union, African Americans make up an estimated 15% of drug users, but they account for 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted and 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison. Or consider this: The U.S. has 260,000 people in state prisons on nonviolent drug charges; 183,200 (more than 70%) of them are black or Latino (read more).
“The so called war on drugs has not been a war on drugs – it has been a war on fundamental freedoms, it has been a war on constitutional rights” (Ira Glasser)