Investigators at Brown University conducted a systematic overview and analysis of the connections between race and illicit drug policy in the United States, a topic that had received little scholarly attention.
The investigators examined how:
- Drug policy issues are placed on the national agenda.
- The racial component enters the debate.
- Congress, the President, and the courts shape the issue.
- The bureaucracies that implement and administer drug policy reflect, exaggerate, or diminish its racial aspects.
The investigators used primary and secondary sources, including:
- Media coverage.
- The Congressional Record.
- Messages and papers of the President.
- Annual agency reports.
- Budget statements.
Drug policy issues often enter the national agenda in response to public fears.
While crude racist rhetoric is far less prevalent today than in the early 20th century, findings from several studies demonstrate that significant racial bias in drug policy persists.
The flash point and symbol of the present public policy response to illicit drugs is mandatory sentencing, a policy with serious racial implications.
Efforts to address racial disparities have faced institutional and political barriers.
When the image of a typical "drug user" changes, drug policy changes.