Jack Cole, Executive Director of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) and a former US police officer (who recently visited the UK and appeared on the Today program) has spoken out about the link between the war on drugs and race.
In an article in the Boston Globe, 'The Solution to the failed war on drugs' he argues,
'War and race dominate the presidential campaign, but one nation-shaping war with profound racial consequences eludes the political radar: the drug war...
But while no other country locks up as large a percentage of its citizens, the specific impact on minority families has been one step short of the reinstitution of slavery: from media portrayals of marijuana-crazed Mexicans, opium-crazed Asians, and cocaine-crazed blacks, this war has always been about race.'
He says that whilst '33 percent of whites received a prison sentence and 51 percent of African-Americans received prison sentences', the amount of black people using drugs is in direct proportion to the amount of ethnic minorities in the USA, 'So, for example, blacks, who are 13 percent of our population, account for 13 percent of our drug use. '
Bill Clinton has admitted the negative impacts that these laws have on ethnic minorities, particularly blacks. Earlier this year he acknowledged his administration's failure to end the racial disparities in sentencing of powder and crack cocaine offenses despite the pharmacological similarities between both substances.
There's more on Clinton's stance on the drugs war, and Obama's views on marijuana here - 'Barack Obama supports cannabis declssification'.
Barack Obama has also spoken out on the crack versus cocaine issue calling for a closing of the sentencing disparity which stands at 100 to 1.
Cole further emphasises the failures of prohibtion for racial minorities by saying,
'Inner-city communities are devastated not by drug use but by the same turf-war street violence that accompanied alcohol prohibition and that dramatically decreased once that drug was legalized and regulated. Almost one in seven African-Americans are denied voting rights largely because of drug arrests, and countless minorities are denied intact families, college loans, driver's licenses, and jobs because of selective enforcement of a prohibition that, even fairly enforced, prevents no one from using drugs.'