Rep. Watson Coleman's Drug Policy Reform Act (DPRA) of 2021 will be the first step in ending the War on Drugs. This legislation will not only decriminalize personal use and possession of all drugs, but it will shift the focus of federal drug policy from the Department of Justice to the Department of Health and Human Services. Along with decriminalizing personal possession, the DPRA will also create a “Commission on Substance Use, Health, and Safety” under HHS that will determine benchmarks using evidence-based solutions. Finally, under the DPRA, individuals impacted by the War on Drugs will be able to seal past records, restore fundamental rights such as voting, and once again have access to life-saving federal benefits such as SNAP nutrition assistance, TANF, and housing assistance.
Today, drug possession continues to be the number one arrest in the United States, with more than 1.35 million arrests per year. Every 25 seconds, a person is arrested for possessing drugs for personal use, with Black and Brown people disproportionately targeted by over-policing. Millions of people have served prison time, many for years due to mandatory minimums, for simple possession. At the same time, drug use has remained consistent over the years while fatal overdose rates continue to skyrocket. The federal government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on drug enforcement over the years and yet all that has been accomplished is the destruction of Black and Brown Communities.