Fifty years ago this week, on June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon held a press conference in the White House briefing room to officially declare a “war on drugs.”

“To fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to lead a new all-out offensive,” President Nixon said.

Since that press conference, our country has followed the President’s directive and launched a decades-long crackdown on people who use drugs. Our policies at the federal, state, and local levels across the United States have largely mimicked this punitive response. So, did it work?

Over the past five decades, we have neither reduced the harms associated with drugs nor stopped drug use. On the contrary, these criminal policies have created a great amount of additional damage in society.

In search of alternatives to the war on drugs

In Mississippi, our drug laws have often fallen along with the war on drugs. Yet drug use is on the rise, overdose rates are higher than ever, and thousands of families have a loved one currently incarcerated on a non-violent drug charge in the Mississippi prison system.

This raises the inevitable and lingering question. Are the citizens of Mississippi ready for a change in our drug laws?

“Over the past five decades, we have neither reduced the harm associated with drugs nor stopped drug use,” writes Brent Montague. “On the contrary, these criminal policies have created a great deal of additional damage to society.” Photo courtesy of End It For Good

Perhaps I could shed some light on this response as the leader of the only nonprofit Mississippi communities education and advocacy group on drug policy. Since 2017, End It For Good has hosted 23 community discussions on “Alternatives to the War on Drugs” with over 1,000 Mississippians. These community discussions have taken place as far north as Southaven and as far south as Ocean Springs.

Before COVID, the opioid epidemic was the number one public health emergency in the United States. As the coronavirus pandemic roared, it only exacerbated the drug crisis in our country, drawing increased attention and awareness to the problem.

As COVID began to wane this spring, we at End It For Good resumed our community discussion program, hosting live and in-person sessions of “Alternatives to the War on Drugs”. Since March, the EFG team has hosted four community discussions from the Golden Triangle from Mississippi to the capital, via Hub City and Pascagoula. Attendees included Mississippi citizens, government officials, law enforcement officials, clergy, Chamber of Commerce officials, higher education officials, and the list goes on.

Raise awareness

Some people have asked me recently, “Since the Mississippi Supreme Court struck down Initiative 65, hasn’t it hurt you all or at least been a setback?” ”

The answer to this question is paradoxical, because the honest answer is yes and no. Yes, the MSSC’s decision is a setback for our state and the well-being of a large and suffering population among our citizens. On the other hand, the MCSS decision has drawn increased attention to the issue and, consequently, increased demand for our work.

For this reason, as we mark this sadly historic anniversary of the US War on Drugs this week, I am announcing that we at End It For Good are launching a public awareness campaign for the citizens of Mississippi over the next few years. summer months.

This campaign will show how our state’s failing drug laws are causing undue harm to its people, families, communities, businesses and law enforcement officials. As we prepare for this season, I also personally invite each of you to consider joining us on the End It For Good journey. Please email [email protected] or call 601-720-2073 to get involved.

This essay by MFP Voices does not necessarily represent the views of Mississippi Free Press, its staff, or members of its board of directors. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and fact-checking information to [email protected] We welcome a wide variety of perspectives.

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