End the War on Drugs

Target: President Obama

Goal: End the criminal prosecution of drug users and focus on harm reduction.

Criminal prosecution of personal drug use is as harmful as it is ineffective. The World Health Organization has called on governments to focus instead on harm reduction, noting specifically that drug prohibition has contributed to the spread of HIV and other negative health consequences. The United Nations itself was even set to call for an end to the war on drugs, according to several media outlets, before it was forced to retract its report under pressure from at least one country. Many speculate this country may be the United States.

In an effort to fight a war that can never be won, the United States has become the world leader in incarceration and wasted billions in taxpayer dollars. Federal and state governments have spent more than $1.5 trillion since 1970 attempting to eradicate illicit drugs. Despite this, the United States has some of the highest rates of illegal drug use in the world. Imprisoning drug users does nothing to treat addiction or prevent other negative impacts of abuse.

The war on drugs operates through a system predicated on misinformation, racism, and human rights abuses. Although rates of drug use and sale remain relatively equal across racial lines, two thirds of all drug offenders in prison are people of color. The majority of these prisoners are nonviolent and have been charged with simple possession. Prison does little to “rehabilitate” so-called offenders. In fact, many experts theorize that the time inmates spend with more hardened criminals actually encourages them to commit crimes of greater magnitude in the future.

It is clear the war on drugs only succeeds in creating a vicious cycle of incarceration and desperation. Much like alcohol prohibition in the early 20th century, drug prohibition serves only to cultivate a massive black market that leads to violence and a complete lack of quality control for substances. We must put a stop to the egregious harm caused by these policies. President Obama himself has even spoken up for justice system reform, noting how “unfair” it is that much of the U.S. prison population is composed of nonviolent offenders. Call on the president to act on his words and lead the nation towards a peaceable end to the war on drugs.


Dear President Obama,

You have repeatedly voiced your disapproval for the mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders and mandatory minimum drug sentencing. However, these human rights abuses are just symptoms of a greater worldwide problem: the continuation of the war on drugs.

Drug prohibition and criminal prosecution has repeatedly proved ineffective and damaging to public health. Since 1970, federal and state governments have spent upwards of $1.5 trillion battling illegal drugs, while their use has gone up and their costs to consumers have gone down in response to a thriving black market. Clearly it is time to abandon this antiquated system in favor of an approach that prioritizes harm reduction over punishment. The World Health Organization has shown drug prohibition to be linked to the spread of diseases such as HIV.

The war on drugs does not stop drug use, it simply makes it more harmful. By forcing individuals to fear punishment, we contribute to a culture of unsafe drug use and rampant violence. Much like alcohol prohibition, drug prohibition will one day be viewed in the history books as a massive failure. Please take a stand for human rights and make the first concrete steps towards ending the drug war part of your presidential legacy.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Nikki David

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