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The War on Drugs refers to a campaign of aggressive criminal justice policies that criminalized drug possession, drug consumption, and drug sale. These policies first began in the United States under President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s and have had significant and racially disproportionate effects. The War on Drugs is synonymous with criminalization of drug possession, increased government policing and surveillance of poor and ethnic minority communities, police militarization, and unprecedented levels of mass incarceration in the United States.

Despite President Nixon’s public claims, the implementation of the War on Drugs was not caused by high rates of drug addiction or drug-related crime in the 1970s, as the rates had remained stable for years and were relatively low at the time. Rather, the policies ...

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