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News :: Politics
Public hearing to investigate the War on Drugs
14 Nov 2004
Modified: 05:41:06 PM
This Monday, November 15th, the Boston City Council will hold a hearing to investigate the effectiveness of our nation's War on Drugs, and the Boston component of it. The questions to be raised and addressed will include how much money has been spent nationally and in Massachusetts since 1973 and in the last ten years on the "war," this will include drug rehabilitation paid for by the state in this year's budget. The information gathered from these and other questions will be used to attempt to answer the ultimate question of this hearing, which is whether it is now time to admit that the War on Drugs has failed and that it is time to develop a new and more effective approach to the use of drugs in this country.
Another issue likely on the agenda is that of drug forfeiture money; recently an initiative to set up a Massachusetts Drug Treatment Trust Fund, into which all money forfeited from drug crimes would be deposited, failed to win on a state ballot. The money currently goes to police and district attorneys. "I would like to see drug forteiture money split in half between the DA and police and a city fund for detox and treatment," says City Councilor Chuck Turner.

In attendance will be representatives from the Boston Police Department, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and the ACLU, among others. Also in attendance and testifying will be Art Nicoletti from a Philadelphia organization called Consent of the Governed, described in its mission statement as a growing national grass-roots citizens movement to capture the imagination of the American people and create a national resolve to expose and eliminate those governmental policies, decisions, and regulations that "are allowing illicit drugs to enter our communities and destroy the lives of our loved ones." According to Nicoletti, the "war on drugs" should be renamed "America's own Apartheid," as it constitutes "a massive human and civil rights violation."

Critics of our national drug policy contend that it creates more problems than it fixes; according to the Drug Policy Alliance, "(m)any of the problems the drug war purports to resolve are in fact caused by the drug war itself. So-called "drug-related" crime is a direct result of drug prohibition's distortion of immutable laws of supply and demand"Drug abuse is bad, but the war on drugs is worse." The drug war is seen by its dissenters to be the prime cause of prison overcrowding, with a disproportionately large number of jailed drug offenders being African-Americans and other minorities. It is also seen to give rise to inner city gangs and organized crime. Nicoletti sees this Monday's hearing as "part of a call for equal time [to address] the cause of drugs in communities, not the effect."

"We need to focus on a sane policy," says Turner. "We're trying to strengthen a national dialogue and create a local dialogue. Not just about marijuana legalization, but whether punitive drug policies are a good thing for our community."

The hearing is on Monday, November 15, at 5:00 p.m. in the City Council Chambers in Boston City Hall and is free and open to the public.

This work is in the public domain