By Maia Szalavitz
As it did in the 1920s, America is currently facing a Gilded Age: careening economic inequality and instability across essential social and political institutions. Also like in the 1920s, the country is confronted by what is increasingly recognized as failing prohibition. This time, it centers on drugs other than alcohol.
But there’s another parallel at work, too: the critical and changing role of women in public life. Women’s organizing was crucial both to the struggle for alcohol Prohibition and the drive for Repeal. In both cases, women helped raise concerns about the effects on children and families: first the harms done by drinking, then the harms done by the laws attempting to stop it. Meanwhile, since 2016, the country has witnessed an uprising of women across many areas of politics—from massive marches against the Trump presidency to the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and violence.
More quietly, women have taken the lead when it comes to drug policy, as well.
The Trump era marks the first time ever that two of the most prominent drug-policy reform organizations in America—the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC)—are both headed by women. Even more strikingly, given the fundamental racial injustice of the war on drugs and emboldened white supremacists gaining new power in the national culture in recent years, both are women of color.