Drug War Prisoners


NACDL's (National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers') renowned journal, The Champion, offers timely informative articles written for and by criminal defense lawyers, featuring the latest developments in search and seizure laws, DUI/DWI, grand jury proceedings, habeas, the exclusionary rule, death penalty, RICO, federal sentencing guidelines, forfeiture, white-collar crime, and more.

The current issue of The Champion publishes the text of an NACDL Board Resolution To End the War on Drugs, passed by unanimous vote on November 4, 2000.

This document contains three resolutions: To declare all drug use to be a health rather than a criminal problem and repeal all laws criminalizing the possession, use and delivery of controlled substances; to cease and desist from all action calculated to end the cultivation of marijuana, coca and opium poppy plants; and to set up a mechanism directed to the release of every individual now imprisoned solely for conviction of a drug offense.

For further information, see www.criminaljustice.org.

NACDL Board Resolution to End the 'War on Drugs'

WHEREAS, during the last twenty years there has been a significant erosion of civil liberties, particularly involving the right to privacy, in the name of winning the so-called "War on Drugs;"

WHEREAS, the population of the United States constitutes about 5 percent of the world's population, yet its prisons now house nearly 25 percent of the worldwide prison population, principally due to the incarceration of drug offenders;

WHEREAS, federal, state and local anti-drug expenditures are now in excess of $50 billion per year (federal expenditures for FY 2001 are requested at $19.2 billion, and state and local expenditures in 1996 were $33 billion); and since the enactment of mandatory minimum sentencing for federal drug offenders in 1986, the Federal Bureau of Prisons budget has ballooned from $220 million in 1986 to $3.19 billion in 1997 to $4.8 billion in FY 2001 (requested); all without significantly reducing the availability and use of drugs;

WHEREAS, a study of 37 states by the Justice Policy Institute reported that the nubmer of Americans imprisoned for violating the drug laws increaased from 38,541 in 1986 to 148,092 in 1996, which if evaluated to reflect population growth represents an increase from incarerating 18 people per 100,000 in 1986 compared to 63 per 100,000 in 1996 (a 247 percent increase);

WHEREAS, in the year 2000 nearly 1 in 4 of the 2 million people imprisoned in the Unted States is imprisoned d for a drug offense (458,131) such that there are approximately 100,000 more people imprisoned in the United states just for drug offenses than all of the prisoners in the European Union (3356,626), even though the European Union has 100 million more citizens than the United States;

WHEREAS, application of our nation's drug law has been racially discriminatory, whether intentional or unintentional, in that a disportionately high percentage of African-Americans and Latinos have been prosecuted and sentenced to prison. For example: even though Latinos make up only 11.7 of the general population accordng to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics, 42 percent of all federal drug prosecutions in 1999 were against Latinos; 279 African-Americans per 100,000 have been sentenced to prison, compared to 20 Caucasians per 100,000 in 1996; and 62.7 percent of the drug offenders sentenced to state prisons were African-Americans although they only constitute 13 percent of the regular drug using population, and despite the fact that according to government estimates, approximately five times as many Caucasians use cocaine as African-Americans;

WHEREAS, federal minimum mandatory sentencing for cocaine offenses unreasonably punishes possession and use of cocaine base far more severely than possession and use of cocaine powder resulting in longer terms of imprisonment for African-Americans than Caucasians for committing similar offenses;

WHEREAS, in California, for example, 5 African-Americans are in prison for every 1 enrolled in a state university;

WHEREAS, states with higher rates of imprisonment for drug offesnes also have had higher rates of continuing drug use, thereby demonstrating that harsh sentencing laws do not significantly deter drugs use;

WHEREAS, in a nation of 200 million people the number of drug users is relatively small given that reasonable estimates of the number of marijuana users is around 10.5 million while the number of cocaine ahd heroin users is only around 2 to 3 million people;

WHEREAS, the abuse of food and legal drugs such as alcohol represent[s] a far more serious health problem than the use of marijuana, cocaine, or heroin in that overeating and/or smoking are significant causes of cardiovascular ad pulmonaary health problems while alcohol abuse is a relatively common factor in assaults and vehicle accidents, causing far more damage and injury to others than marijuana, cocaine or heroin use;

WHEREAS, addiction to any substance, whether legal or illegal, is really a health problem best treated by the medical community and others trained in the causes and treatments of addiction;

BE IT RESOLVED that the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers calls upon federal and state governments to immediately:

(1) End the "War on Drugs" by declaring all drug use to be a health rather than a criminal problem and repeal all laws criminalizing the possession, use and delivery of controlled substances;

(2) Cease and desist from all action calculated to end the cultivation of marijuana, coca and opium poppy plants;

(3) Establish a commission consisting of members of the addiction treatment community and the criminal justice community (police, prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges) to draw up a treatment and release plan calculated to release every individual with full restoration of their civil rights who are now imprisoned solely for conviction of a drug offense as soon as reasonably practicable, and develop a plan to eliminate the black market in drugs by taxing and regulating the sale and use of controlled substances, setting aside a portion of the revenues to establish clinics nationwide for drug education, research into the causes of addiction, and the treatment of addiction.


Passed by Unanimous Vote November 4, 2000

Final Version Released November 13, 2000

For footnotes [presence not indicated in this type-out] see Web site criminaljustice.org

Thanks to POW Lee Max Barnett, San Quentin prison, for sending this information

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