The U.S. has been gradually moving away from the war on drugs, which started in the ’70s and has led to prisons overflowing with drug offenders on long sentences.
A map from Pew Research Center (see right) shows how states have overwhelmingly been easing drug laws over the past few years, even in traditionally conservative areas. Easing drug laws includes lowering penalties for drug possession charges, shortening mandatory minimums, and providing alternatives to the traditional criminal justice system such as drug courts.
Many states were forced to cut their budgets after the economic collapse in 2008, so legislators eased drug laws in part to cut prison costs. And lately, reforming drug policy has been a bipartisan effort.
Attitudes of Americans have also shifted in recent years — in a Pew study, 67% of people said government should focus more on treating people who use illegal drugs, and only 26% said prosecution should be the focus. This differs drastically from 25 years ago, when Americans thought law enforcement should be tough on drug offenders and 73% of Americans favoured a mandatory death penalty for “major drug traffickers.
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