Why The War On Drugs Is A War Against The Poor

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Why The War On Drugs Is A War Against The Poor

You would think that drug policies are be the same for everyone, right? Turns out this is not the case.

Wether you are rich or poor, from an ethnic minority, or out of work - it shouldn’t really matter should it? Regardless of wether drug laws make any sense at all - the execution of the law still should be based on the egalitarian principle. Laws are laws, and all should be treated the same.

Well, for police in the UK, unbiased justice seems to be an unheard of concept. According to an unpublished report from the drug policy charity Release, the police are much more likely to stop, search and arrest those belonging to a lower social demographic than those from a higher one.

The report found that those belonging to the highest socio-economic demographic group, such as doctors and lawyers, are 3 times more likely to be let off with a warning for a drug offense; and of the 200,000 people stopped and searched in London for drug possession, 93% belonged to a low socio-economic group. And before you think, well maybe this is because there is more of a drug problem in lower socio-economic groups, think again. Rich, affluent and well educated people use drugs just as proportionately as those from lower socio-economic groups, they just aren’t harassed as much.

A middle finger to the poor

According to Inspector Glynn, Vice President of the National Black Police Association “If you look at the demographic of police officers – especially those at mid to high levels, who make the decisions about policing – a lot would call themselves middle class. There’s an element of looking down their noses at some people. It’s a kind of institutional classism.”

There is also the aspect that it is much easier to go after people from a lower class. There is a culture of meeting quotas in today’s policing, and there is incentive to simply make up the numbers. What’s the easiest way to fill your drug charge quota? Well, go for the lower classes. What this creates is a police force that looks good on paper - ‘cracking down on crime’ and supposedly doing its job properly; but at the end of the day, is harassing people to simply make up the numbers, and is not allocating police resources where it really matters - combating serious crime. They are going for points over actual meaningful results.

A problem with this is that a criminal offense can be extremely damaging to someone from a lower socio-economic background. Even one drug charge can practically shatter all hopes they have of finding decent work, perpetuating a cycle of misfortune. And when you consider most of these charges are for minor offenses like possession of a few grams of weed, it really drives home the point that something is fundamentally wrong with the system.

Driving the industry

Unfortunately, this same pattern isn’t exclusive to the UK - in fact, it’s a rather universal picture of injustice and class war. Particularly in the US, this same racial and socio-economic division is driving much of what has become the prison-industrial complex. Incarcerating people is big business, and someone needs to fill all those empty beds. Picking up the defenseless is obviously the easiest thing do to - the same behavior that drives the school bully.