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NAACP And ACLU Ask Congress To Suspend DEA’s Drug Enforcement Activities

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Top civil rights, civil liberties and criminal justice groups are calling for the suspension of enforcement activities by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) until congressional leaders conduct a review of their efficacy.

In a letter signed the ACLU and NAACP, along with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the Sentencing Project, the groups argued that DEA is “emblematic of how the drug war has been a devastating failure,” sending people to prison for non-violent drug offenses when substance use should be treated as a public health issue.

“In short, the DEA is the lead entity executing the war on drugs,” the coalition wrote. “If we are ever to treat drugs as a health issue, not a criminal issue, then the DEA’s enforcement activities must be suspended until an oversight hearing is done on this program by the House Judiciary Committee.”

The letter, which includes recommendations about investing in drug treatment programs in prisons, reducing recidivism rates and humanely addressing opioid issues, was sent to leaders of the influential House Appropriations Committee last month.

“The agency approaches drugs from a purely criminalization standpoint, under the misguided belief that the U.S. can reduce drug use through arrest and incarceration,” the letter says, of DEA. “Its approach is heavy-handed, ineffective, unscientific, and deeply damaging to communities in this country, particular communities of color who bear the negative impact of the drug war more than others do.”

DEA has “used its power to oppose all drug policy changes that represent a shift from the drug war model in any way, such as rescheduling drugs, and legalizing marijuana, and reducing harsh drug sentences,” they wrote.

“If we are serious about treating drugs as a public health issue, we need to move away from the enforcement only approach, as embodied by the DEA, and invest resources in evidence-based policies,” Michael Collins, director of national affairs at DPA, told Marijuana Moment.

There has been growing criticism of DEA’s singular focus on enforcement and refusal to embrace certain reform proposals such as rescheduling, including from Republican lawmakers who oppose cannabis legalization.

Additionally, lawmakers and researchers have implored DEA to expand the number of federally authorized, research-grade marijuana manufacturers—something that Attorney General William Barr said he supports.

You can read the full letter below:

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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