By Amber Langston
On December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a pivotal moment in world history. Following the end of WWII, the notion of fair treatment for all human beings became cemented in this formal statement. With the exception of the Bible, the UDHR holds the world record for most translated document.
When our country was founded, our constitution was embedded with a dark stain which former Executive Director of the ACLU and current Board Director of DPA Ira Glasser calls our country's "original sin". We declared that black men were only three-fifths of a person. This designation paved the way for the most insidious and horrible of crimes against our African-American brothers and sisters. When we deem someone as less than human, it allows a social psychology to take place which justifies violence, cruelty, and utter disregard for for the lives of those deemed "other".
Under the rule of drug prohibition, and heightened by the culture wars of the 60s, the discrediting of entire political movements through disparaging and derogatory labeling as druggies, dopers, and stoned-out-hippies, became a predominant tool for silencing dissent. Beginning with the Nixon administration and multiplying throughout every administration since Reagan, it became acceptable for society to make marijuana and other drug users a group of "others" who did not have the same value as human beings as the rest of us. While this has no doubt extended to persecution of persons of all races, the facts are there to show how our drug policy still overwhelmingly targets black communities. That's why the drug war is sometimes called "The New Black Crow".
Today we see this disregard for universal human rights of drug users being played out on a massive scale, turning into a full-scale assault on the entire civilian population by our increasingly militarized law enforcement. Because we have bought into the idea that drug users (particularly those with addiction) are not in the same category as the rest of us, we have accepted as normal many very sick behaviors.
No-knock SWAT raids routinely kill innocent civilians across this country, and almost all those raids are served looking for drugs and the associated money which cops seize to buy themselves toys of violence.
Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that police, sometimes during routine traffic stops, are entitled to search any body cavity they think might contain illegal drugs. In a different world, this would be called sexual assault. But because drug users are only defined by the characteristic of "druggie", then we are resolved from giving them the same rights as other human beings.
Marijuana legalization is a human rights issue. For Universal Human Rights Day on December 10, I urge you to remember that all people deserve dignity and respect. And remember that cannabis consumers are people, too.