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Forty Year War on Drugs Incites New Orleanians to Protest

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Advocates call for shift from incarceration to rehabilitation and legalization

NEW ORLEANS, La. – On Friday afternoon, with festive music and diverse protestors, Women with a Vision led a peaceful march against what the organization describes as a trillion dollar “abject failure”—the now forty-year-old war on drugs.

With the support of likeminded organizations in 15 cities across the country, approximately 60 protestors marched through Central City, soaking up 90 degree temperatures. They called for an end to what they allege to be racial profiling, lengthy sentences, and unfair drug policies.

Those present held differing views on specifics, but the consensus appeared to be for a shift away from incarceration toward either rehabilitation or legalization. Since Louisiana has the world’s highest incarceration rate—one in 55 people, and 30 percent from drug convictions—they believe the money would be better spent elsewhere.

Event organizer and director of Women with a Vision, Deon Haywood, said that on the drug war’s 40th anniversary none of us are safer, despite the immense expense.

“It hasn’t curbed the use of illegal drugs, but what it has done is incarcerate many people… We have only two licensed addiction counselors serving three parishes: Orleans, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard. Why can’t that money be put into treatment?” She did not, however, call for outright legalization. (Click below to hear her full interview – seven minutes.)

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Dana Kaplan, director of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, attended and spoke at the close of the event. She expressed concern that the drug war was tearing communities apart and fostering a “school-to-prison pipeline,” but she noted incremental victories this legislative session. Her hope is that she won’t have to return in another 40 years, and she called on attendees to continue to support the efforts of Women with a Vision.

A few self-described anarchists participated, but attendees who might otherwise be at odds seemed glad to have a variety of political persuasions allying for the occasion.

“You get to see the people coming together. It’s a unity thing,” said Keyondria Mitchell, a supporter who led one of the dancing groups. She said the event’s varied attendees were testament to a changing public perception of the drug war. “That’s what you want, awareness.”

Roger White, a political science professor at Loyola University New Orleans, has no problem with a war on drugs and counters that the active prevention of marijuana availability, for example, is a “social good.”

“People who are stoned cannot act well in the capacity of family member, neighbor, or citizen.”

In terms of tactics, though, he favors marijuana decriminalization – with fines and education – as the most fitting approach to what sees as a social problem.

For an insightful debate between Roger White and Walter Block, of the Loyola economics department, over the legal standing of drugs, watch the video below. The Loyola Economics Club hosted the event late in 2010.

Fergus Hodgson is the capitol bureau reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy and editor of The Pelican Post. He can be contacted at fhodgson@pelicaninstitute.org, and one can follow him on twitter.

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  • Anonymous

    Lets stop the war on common sense. How is it that the USA is 12% of the world’s population – but owns 25% of the world’s prison population? I will give you one guess (And –NO it’s not because of Global Warming!).

  • The War on Drugs failed $1 Trillion ago!  This money could have been used for outreach
    programs to clean up the bad end of drug abuse by providing free HIV testing,
    free rehab, and clean needles.  Harmless
    drugs like marijuana could be legalized to help boost our damaged economy.  Cannabis can provide hemp for countless
    natural recourses and the tax revenue from sales alone would pull every state
    in our country out of the red!  Vote
    Teapot, PASS IT, and legalize it.  Voice
    you opinion with the movement and read more on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/01/vote-teapot-2011.html  

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  • Anonymous

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    If you are a Prohibitionist then you owe us answers to the following questions:

    #1. Why do you rejoice at the fact that we have all been stripped of our 4th amendment rights and are now totally subordinate to a corporatized, despotic government with a heavily armed and corrupt, militarized police force whose often deadly intrusions into our homes and lives are condoned by an equally corrupt and spineless judiciary?

    #2. Why do you wish to continue to spend $50 billion a year to prosecute and cage your fellow citizens for choosing drugs which are not more dangerous than those of which you yourself use and approve of such as alcohol and tobacco?

    #3. Do you honestly expect the rest of us to look on passively while you waste another trillion dollars on this ruinously expensive garbage policy?

    #4. Why are your waging war on your own family, friends and neighbors?

    #5. Why are you so complacent with the fact that our once ‘free & proud’ nation now has the largest percentage of it’s citizenry incarcerated than any other on the entire planet?

    #6. Why are you helping to fuel a budget crisis to the point of closing hospitals, schools and libraries?

    #7. Why do you rejoice at wasting precious resources on prohibition related undercover work while rapists and murderers walk free, while additionally, many cases involving murder and rape do not even get taken to trial because law enforcement priorities are subverted by your beloved failed and dangerous policy?

    #8. Why are you such a supporter of the ‘prison industrial complex’ to the extent of endangering our own children?

    #9. Will you graciously applaud, when due to your own incipient and authoritarian approach, even your own child is caged and raped?

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  • Anonymous

    Hmmmm, a leftist funded hooker group puts this on, and it is just like the Communist political officer described how they would operate in the U.S. while he was decommissioning a weather base for the USN at the end of WWI on the Kamchatka Pennisula.

  • Anonymous

    Tell your Congressional Representatives –

    It is time to “Change the Schedule of Cannabis, Cannabis Laws, and Drug Czar Laws”

    Read and Sign the petition at


    After you sign the petition, email your friendlies, share on facebook, or twitter from the petition page. If you have a website grab the widget so your visitors can sign it without leaving your website.

    This petition uses laws passed by Congress to point out that by their laws, the laws must change.

  • I haven’t used illegal drugs since college (30 plus years) so I don’t have much of a dog in this fight, but it seems a little over the top to implicate the CIA and I certainly don’t agree that we have a heavily armed and corrupt, militarized police force. Seems we are a bit paranoid don’t you think? 

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