Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman and 20 other co-sponsors introduced a bill on Nov. 6 that would call upon Congress to formally apologize for the racially-driven origins of the “War on Drugs.”
Marijuana Moment reports that Coleman introduced a similar bill last year, but the House Rules Committee under Chairman Pete Sessions, who was notoriously opposed to cannabis reform before leaving office.
This time around, Coleman’s bill gained the support of the Drug Policy Alliance and NAACP. “The War on Drugs has a history based in racism and xenophobia,” Coleman tweeted. “It stoked fears of ‘reefer madness’ and said marijuana users were dangerous and violent. Despite evidence to the contrary, for years drug use was treated as a criminal issue dealt with by punishment instead of treatment.” It took six tweets to convey Coleman’s full message via Twitter about her resolution.
Today, I am reintroducing a resolution to:
1. End the War on Drugs
2. Apologize to the countless victims and seek restorative justice
3. Reorient our approach to view drug use as a health issue and not a criminal issue.
— Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (@RepBonnie) December 6, 2019
In the 1930s, Harry Anslinger was Assistant Prohibition Commissioner in the Bureau of Prohibition, first Commissioner of the Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) and US Representative to the United Nations Narcotics Commission Anslinger was instrumental in the first laws on cannabis, which were created based on racist beliefs. “There are 100,000 total marihuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers,” Anslinger claimed in a testimony to Congress in 1937 in support of the Marihuana Stamp Act. “Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
The resolution insists the House “hereby apologizes to the individuals and communities harmed through the War on Drugs and acknowledges that actions by this body have demonized and criminalized addiction for more than 80 years instead of accurately treating it as a health concern.”
Bias and remnants of racism haven’t completely disappeared from the spectrum of drug policy. Coleman’s resolution would take drug war reparations to the next level, with a formal apology to disadvantaged communities finally taking place.