The NAACP Calls for an End to the War on Drugs

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According to one of its officials, "The only thing we've accomplished is becoming the world's largest incarcerator."



The coalition to end the War on Drugs now includes one of America's most storied civil rights organizations: the NAACP. Delegates to its 102nd annual conference, held in Los Angeles, passed a resolution on Tuesday that stopped short of calling for full legalization. But it explicitly asserts "that those who are arrested for drug offenses not be sent to prison," according to Robert Rooks, Director of the NAACP Criminal Justice Program. The full language of the resolution won't be made public until October, after it goes before the organization's board of directors.

Alice Huffman, an NAACP official in California, said in a release put out by the organization that minorities are disproportionately hurt by current policy. "Studies show that all racial groups abuse drugs at similar rates, but the numbers also show that African Americans, Hispanics and other people of color are stopped, searched, arrested, charged, convicted, and sent to prison for drug-related charges at a much higher rate," she stated. 

That's a good reason to oppose the War on Drugs, especially if you're an organization dedicated to the advancement of blacks. There is no single policy doing more harm to that community. But even if there were no racial disparities in its application, The War on Drugs would be a failure that hasn't stopped drug use or abuse. It has, however, cost countless billions, spawned a violent black market in American cities, fueled the rise of violent cartels that have destabilized whole countries, and eroded the civil liberties of all Americans -- among many other unintended consequences.

Historically, the NAACP has taken a conservative approach to effecting change, always working within the system. It is heartening to know that, in doing so, it has already triumphed in struggles with longer odds and more determined, wrongheaded opponents.

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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