Thursday, December 23, 2004 2:51 PM

National Black Caucus of State Legislators Passes Resolution Condemning the War on Drugs

Landmark Resolution Passes with Enormous Support,
Calls for Alternatives to Failed Policies
NBCSL Members Commit to Repealing Mandatory Minimum Sentences, Diverting Nonviolent Drug Offenders Into Treatment by Pursuing Legislation in their Own States

The National Black Caucus of State Legislators made history last weekend by passing a resolution that both condemns the war on drugs and commits the lawmakers to developing alternatives. The resolution was sponsored by Delegate Salima Marriott of Maryland. Specifically, it singles out issues like reform of mandatory minimum sentences and diversion of nonviolent drug offenders into treatment.

The resolution states, in part, The war on drugs has failed [&] and while states have continually increased their expenditures to wage the war on drugs, policies which rely heavily on arrest and incarceration have proved costly and ineffective at addressing these issues..

The war on drugs is failing everybody, but no one is being devastated by it like African Americans, said Michael Blain, director of public policy at the Drug Policy Alliance. That's why it's so historic that the people who represent the communities who have the most to gain from reform are taking the lead in addressing this problem, and finding solutions..

Critics of the war on drugs point out the extreme racial disparities in application of drug laws. According to Human Rights Watch, while blacks and whites have similar rates of drug use, blacks go to jail at thirteen times the rate of whites. Although African Americans comprise only 12.2 percent of the population, they make up 38 percent of those arrested for drug offenses and 59 percent of those convicted of drug offenses. In New York, 93% of those incarcerated under the state.s notorious Rockefeller drug laws are African American and Latino.

The resolution is attached below.

November 9, 2004
Resolution 05- 18


WHEREAS, the war on drugs has failed: every community in the US contends with the harmful effects of drug misuse and related problems, and while states have continually increased their expenditures to wage the war on drugs, policies which rely heavily on arrest and incarceration have proved costly and ineffective at addressing these issues and;

WHEREAS, the war on drugs is a major force driving the incarceration of over 2.1 million people in the United States, with African Americans disproportionately represented in our country.s overflowing jails and prisons and;

WHEREAS, the war on drugs perpetuates mandatory minimums, felony disfranchisement, disproportionate over-incarceration, poor access to healthcare, under funded public education, widespread unemployment, and the general criminalization of communities of color in the US and;

WHEREAS, paying for the war on drugs means spending limited tax dollars on failed policies instead of proven solutions. Americans spend approximately $140 billion annually on prisons and jails including $24 billion spent on incarcerating over 1.2 million non-violent offenders. In many states (such as New York and California), spending on prisons far surpasses spending on education and;

WHEREAS, harm reduction strategies, including access to affordable community-based drug treatment, along with educational and economic opportunities, have shown to be successful at reducing the harms of drug misuse, yet more than half of those Americans in need of drug treatment do not have access to it and;

WHEREAS, African Americans are less likely to sell or misuse illicit drugs than white Americans, yet African Americans experience highly disproportionate levels of death, disease, crime and suffering due both to drug misuse and to misguided drug policies. African-Americans comprise only 12.2 percent of the population and 13 percent of drug users, yet they make up 38 percent of those arrested for drug offenses and 59 percent of those convicted of drug offenses and;

WHEREAS, our common goal is to advocate those policies which increase the health and welfare of our communities, and to reduce the unacceptable racial disparities both in criminal justice and in access to drug treatment and other services and;

WHEREAS, taking steps to reduce the incarceration of non-violent offenders and increasing the availability of treatment not only makes fiscal sense, but is sound public policy that is being implemented in states throughout the country (such as Maryland and California) and;

WHEREAS, we believe that nonviolent substance abusers are not menaces to our communities but rather a troubled yet integral part of our community who need to be reclaimed

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED BY THE 28th ANNUAL LEGISLATIVE CONFERENCE OF THE NATIONAL BLACK CAUCUS OF STATE LEGISLATORS, ASSEMBLED IN PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA NOVEMBER 29-DECEMBER 4, 2004 that NBCSL will: Introduce and support legislation which will repeal mandatory minimum sentences, divert nonviolent drug offenders out of prison and into community-based treatment, and stop the flow of people needing treatment or transitional services from recidivating solely for positive urines. Ensure that this new legislation includes quantifiable, measurable goals, and is measured by a standard that reduces the effects of substance abuse and addiction and the harm of unjust drug policies while increasing public safety, thereby creating a New Bottom Line. Create state task forces to research and report on the allocation of state expenditures for all public education and health services and the war on drugs so that states can understand the real cost of the war on drugs in the state budgets and in their communities. Work with the Drug Policy Alliance to create NBCSL seminars that provide a thorough overview on harm reduction principles and legislative reform initiatives.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this resolution seeks to advance a drug policy agenda that prioritizes a public health, not a criminal justice approach, to drug policy.

Sponsored by: Delegate Salima Marriott (MD)

Committee of Jurisdiction: Law & Justice

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