Biden reportedly plans to double Trump’s illegal drug policy
Across the US, states and cities are voting to legalize weeds and decriminalize the use of natural psychedelics, ending nearly a century of hardcore bans. And after decades of passing draconian drug laws, even Congress is showing a certain passion for stepping back on the war on drugs.
Despite growing support for updating the country’s outdated drug laws, President Biden seems content with sticking to his forbidden roots. Not only has he continued to voice his opposition to adult legalization, his administration has fired and disciplined White House employees who were high ranked in weed law states.
Now the president is poised to double down on a Trump-era law that would impose strict minimum sentences on anyone in possession of fentanyl. This relatively new narcotic, required by law to treat extreme pain, has flooded the black market in recent years and contributed significantly to the country’s opioid crisis.
In 2018, the Trump administration classified fentanyl and several related opioids as List I drugs, and Congress expanded that classification again last year. This extension will expire in a few weeks, however, and the Biden administration is now pushing Congress for another extension.
“The government is taking the May 6 deadline seriously and will work with Congress to get a clean seven-month extension to keep this vital law enforcement tool from lapsing,” a spokesman for the National Drug Control Policy Office told RealClearPolitics.
The opioid crisis killed millions of Americans, and no one is arguing that the federal government should allow fentanyl to spread freely. However, the Appendix I classification of these drugs means that anyone who possesses them is subject to strict minimum sentences that can further destroy the lives of those who have dealt with these addictive substances.
Proponents of drug reform argue that expanding the Appendix I fentanyl classification will only criminalize drug addiction rather than treat it. The war on drugs did nothing to actually stop the proliferation of illicit drugs, and critics argue that the government must view the opioid crisis as a public health issue rather than a law enforcement concern alone.
“Serious crime laws do not make us safer and have a disproportionate impact on black and brown communities,” Aamra Ahmad, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, told RealClearPolitics. “At the federal level, 75% of those convicted in fentanyl cases are black people, and more than half of fentanyl law enforcement efforts are aimed at those in need of help, such as users, couriers, and street-level vendors, rather than focusing on high scores – or even medium-sized dealers. “
These prohibition laws not only disproportionately target minorities, but are also almost completely ineffective. A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the Trump administration used the new classification primarily to destroy low-grade fentanyl dealers, which did nothing to reduce the availability of these drugs. In 2019, only 10 percent of all fentanyl-related cases were against high-ranking traders or human traffickers.
It is perfectly clear that the war on drugs is doing nothing to stop the spread of fentanyl, but the government is preparing to continue this ineffective strategy. Last week, over 100 criminal justice and drug policy groups sent a letter calling on Congress to remove the Schedule I classification and instead focus on finding an effective solution to the crisis.
“As we near the 50-year milestone of President Nixon’s announcement of the war on drugs, there is ample evidence that these unscientific policies are destroying communities, exacerbating racial differences, and doing nothing to reduce the supply or demand for drugs,” wrote the groups to the Huffington Post. “Legislators should instead support laws based on public health and evidence-based approaches to illegal fentanyl overdose deaths. We must learn from the lessons of the past. “