By Kassandra Frederique, Director, Drug Policy Alliance / Truthout

In 1970, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) was passed by the Nixon administration, codifying a national strategy to prohibit drug use and target certain communities. Since then, the “war on drugs” has failed to reduce supply or demand, while steadily increasing drug overdose deaths and perpetuating the stigmatization of individuals with addiction. It has fueled wide-scale militarized policing, cost taxpayers over $1 trillion since its inception, and expanded punitive institutions outside of the criminal legal system — including punishment-oriented systems embedded in schools, hospitals and social service agencies. After 50 years of failures and substantial evidence that drug prohibition is not only ineffective but also incredibly counterproductive, we clearly cannot afford another 50 years of the same. The time has come to repeal the Controlled Substances Act and transition toward a more evidence based and realistic approach to drug use in our society.

On its face, the CSA’s stated purpose to create a tiered system with five categories based on potential for problematic use, medical use and safety sounds like a reasonable plan. But the reality is far more grim. It has been primarily wielded as a political hammer to justify arbitrarily criminalizing and targeting certain marginalized communities, and used to restrict research that might prove any kind of medicinal benefits.