2015 has been a remarkable year in the struggle to end the senseless, immoral War on Drugs. Since prohibition came around in the mid-20th century—outlawing many plants and derivatives that have been used by humans for thousands of years—it has created misery for millions and driven the development of dangerous alternatives.
The misery can be summed up in mass incarceration, creating a violent black market, and denying people effective treatments for medical conditions.
The war on drugs has been the primary factor driving a staggering increase in the US prison population, which quadrupled since 1980 to a point in 2008 where more than 1 in 100 adults were incarcerated. During that time, mandatory minimum sentences were put in place to deal out harsh penalties for victimless crimes. While users and street dealers were thrown in cages, the black market for drugs grew into a monster with the help of corrupt government agencies such as Border Patrol.
Just as Western medicine began realizing the usefulness of cannabis and psychedelics for treating a wide range of physical and mental problems, prohibition shut down scientific advancement. Denying these treatments to citizens, and denying their right to ingest any substance they want, denies basic human rights. It could be construed as a crime against humanity.
While government carried out its war on people, their financiers in the pharmaceutical industry got a nation addicted to prescription pills, which are now causing an epidemic of death and addiction. Criminalizing cannabis and other plant-based substances has led to the emergence of truly dangerous drugs such as “spice” (synthetic cannabis) and “flakka.”
However, there is hope. Here are 10 big stories in 2015 that show we may have reached the tipping point in ending the War on Drugs.
Release of Non-Violent Drug Offenders
About 6,000 inmates were released from federal prison in early November. This is only the start, as upwards of 46,000 non-violent drug offenders are set to be released after the US Sentencing Commission reformed its stance on drug sentencing. Also, the Justice Department instructed its prosecutors “not to charge low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who have no connection to gangs or large-scale drug organizations with offenses that carry severe mandatory sentences.”
58% of Americans Now in Favor of Legalizing Cannabis
The results of a Gallup poll released in October show that a solid majority of Americans say cannabis use should be legal in the US. This is the highest percentage in 46 years, and is consistent with other state and national polls. Despite this, more than 700,000 people were arrested for cannabis in 2014, mostly for simple possession.
Canada Confirms They will Legalize Cannabis
Newly elected Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, repeated the promise that his government will legalize and regulate cannabis. In his remarks, Trudeau said this will fix a “failed system” and remove the “criminal element.” They will be looking to Colorado and Washington, which just legalized recreational use, in developing the Canadian model.
Mexico Supreme Court Ruled Cannabis Prohibition Unconstitutional
In early November, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled in favor of plaintiffs, saying that cannabis prohibition violated the “right to the free development of personality.” This follows on the heels of Mexico’s first-ever legal medical cannabis patient, allowing its treatment for an 8-year-old girl suffering constant seizures.
Montana and New Mexico Ended Civil Asset Forfeiture
These two states became the first in the US to end civil asset forfeiture, where cops can steal cash and assets on the mere suspicion of wrongdoing, with no conviction of a crime. This “policing for profit” is one of the most insidious practices of law enforcement and is enabled mostly by the war on drugs.
Influential Law Enforcement Group Calls for End to Mass Incarceration
Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, a group of more than 130 police chiefs, prosecutors, and sheriffs, in October said too many people are in jail and alternatives to arrest need to be explored. They lambasted zero tolerance policies for possession of small amounts of drugs and called for an end to mandatory minimum sentencing.
Momentum Building for Supervised Injection Facilities
New York is emerging as the nexus in a movement for supervised injection facilities so that IV drug users can have a safe, clean environment. This would reduce the growing number of overdose deaths while providing drug treatment options. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that these facilities can solve a host of public health and public disorder problems.
US Senate Votes to Allow VA Doctors to Prescribe Medical Cannabis
On Veterans Day, senators took the surprising action of voting to give Veterans Affairs doctors the ability to prescribe medical cannabis in states where it is legal. Science shows that medical cannabis offers promising treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other problems that soldiers face when returning from active duty.
The Pope Calls Out Corruption of War on Drugs
When Pope Francis visited the US in September, he criticized many policies of the US, including its war on drugs. He described how prohibition creates “a corruption which has penetrated to the different levels of social, political, military, artistic and religious life.” The pope even visited a prisoner whose only crime was being caught with cannabis.
DEA Chief Chuck Rosenberg Said the Most Ridiculous Thing
In November, addressing reporters on the issue of medical cannabis, DEA Chief Chuck Rosenberg baselessly stated, “What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal, because it’s not. We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine. That is a joke.”
Why should this ludicrous statement, contradicted by a vast body of scientific research, be considered hopeful news? It shows the desperation of the last remaining holdouts from a primitive era, and brings attention to the absurdity of those who lead the drug war. The calls for Rosenberg’s resignation were swift and furious.