Culture Wars/Current Controversies

How the Drug War Dies

By Maia Szalavitz The Nation

Just a few decades ago, the left and the right, politicians and the public, universally embraced the criminalization of drug use. But a new consensus has emerged.

Annapolis Police Chief Ed Jackson was raised by a single mother in a Baltimore housing project. “Police officers weren’t seen as our friends,” he recalls. He and his five siblings were driven by “never wanting to disappoint” their protective mom, he adds—and this helped keep them in school and off the streets.

After Jackson graduated from college, a buddy who had joined the police force suggested that he do the same. He saw a chance to both do some good and pay down his student loans. He never expected to make a career of law enforcement.

Nor did he ever expect to become an advocate for the more lenient treatment of drug use. He describes himself as originally being a “traditionalist” who saw the War on Drugs as “noble and right.” Even now, he says, “I believe firmly in law and order.”


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