Drug Decriminalization in Maryland Through an African Centered Research Paradigm- Analysis and Recommendations

This document offers guidance for theorizing questions related to a proposed research project purposed to advance drug decriminalization in Maryland.

This document offers guidance for theorizing questions related to a proposed research project purposed to advance drug decriminalization in Maryland.

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<strong>Drug</strong> <strong>Decrim<strong>in</strong>alization</strong> <strong>in</strong> <strong>Maryl<strong>an</strong>d</strong> <strong>Through</strong> <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong><br />

<strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong>: <strong>Analysis</strong> <strong>an</strong>d <strong>Recommendations</strong><br />

Prepared By: Lawrence Gr<strong>an</strong>dpre,<br />

Director of <strong>Research</strong>, Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle<br />

Process Overview<br />

This document offers guid<strong>an</strong>ce for theoriz<strong>in</strong>g questions related to a proposed research<br />

project purposed to adv<strong>an</strong>ce drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization <strong>in</strong> <strong>Maryl<strong>an</strong>d</strong>.<br />

Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle is a grassroots th<strong>in</strong>k t<strong>an</strong>k <strong>in</strong> Baltimore, <strong>Maryl<strong>an</strong>d</strong>. Over the<br />

past ten years, we have been engaged <strong>in</strong> community org<strong>an</strong>iz<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>d legislative advocacy work <strong>in</strong><br />

a variety of issues from racial consciousness <strong>in</strong> education curriculum, to advocat<strong>in</strong>g for police<br />

accountability, <strong>an</strong>d c<strong>an</strong>nabis legalization. Additionally, our org<strong>an</strong>ization has pursued youth<br />

development through policy debate <strong>in</strong>struction, research, academic conferences, consult<strong>in</strong>g with<br />

nonprofits, <strong>an</strong>d public sector entities on <strong>an</strong>ti-racism, public outreach, <strong>an</strong>d policy advocacy. Our<br />

org<strong>an</strong>ization pulls from the theory <strong>an</strong>d experiences of academics <strong>an</strong>d political activists from the<br />

Black radical tradition, with a specific focus on underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g the theory <strong>an</strong>d praxis of <strong>an</strong>tiblackness<br />

<strong>an</strong>d the P<strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong> liberation struggle. This comb<strong>in</strong>ation of experiences gives us a<br />

unique perspective of academic <strong>an</strong>alysis skills <strong>an</strong>d real-world experience with advocacy <strong>an</strong>d<br />

community org<strong>an</strong>iz<strong>in</strong>g, <strong>an</strong>d it is this unique perspective that we seek to br<strong>in</strong>g to this research<br />

project on drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization <strong>in</strong> <strong>Maryl<strong>an</strong>d</strong>.<br />

This document reflects the process<strong>in</strong>g of various topics, specifically the <strong>an</strong>alysis of drug<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. It is the result of reflect<strong>in</strong>g on several questions, critiques of traditional drug<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization research, discourses, <strong>an</strong>d practices, <strong>an</strong>d notes recommendations on how best to<br />

pursue future research on the issue.<br />

Close to 2000 pages of material – to <strong>in</strong>clude books, journal articles, media, <strong>an</strong>d news<br />

reports - have been processed for this report. Although these materials are available for<br />

<strong>in</strong>dependent review, extensive quotes from these source materials are <strong>in</strong>cluded to elim<strong>in</strong>ate the<br />

need for readers to assess the totality of the source material.<br />

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Introduction - Beyond the “St<strong>an</strong>dard Model” of the “Decrim<strong>in</strong>alize <strong>Drug</strong>s” Argument<br />

S<strong>in</strong>ce the 1930s, when Harry Ansl<strong>in</strong>ger led federal efforts to crim<strong>in</strong>alize drugs through the<br />

1937 Mariju<strong>an</strong>a Tax Act, <strong>an</strong>d then aggressively enforced prohibition under the Federal Bureau of<br />

Narcotics (the precursor to the DEA), drug prohibition enforcement has been a staple of Americ<strong>an</strong><br />

govern<strong>an</strong>ce (Hari, 2016). Federal policy trickled down to state policy, claim<strong>in</strong>g the harmful social<br />

<strong>an</strong>d public health impacts of drug use warr<strong>an</strong>ts <strong>an</strong> aggressive exp<strong>an</strong>sion of the “War on <strong>Drug</strong>s.”<br />

With the notable exception of a short period <strong>in</strong> the 1970s where c<strong>an</strong>nabis decrim<strong>in</strong>alization was<br />

pursued, state <strong>an</strong>d federal governments have cont<strong>in</strong>ued to enforce drug prohibition aggressively.<br />

(Alex<strong>an</strong>der, 2010). From its outset, with Ansl<strong>in</strong>ger conjur<strong>in</strong>g fears of Mexic<strong>an</strong> mariju<strong>an</strong>a<br />

<strong>in</strong>toxication, creat<strong>in</strong>g the threat of violence, <strong>an</strong>d target<strong>in</strong>g Black jazz musici<strong>an</strong>s with explicitly<br />

racialized justification, the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s has had disproportionate impacts on racial m<strong>in</strong>orities.<br />

Despite mak<strong>in</strong>g up approximately 30% of the nation's population, m<strong>in</strong>orities make up 80% of<br />

federal convictions on drug charges <strong>an</strong>d 60% of state <strong>an</strong>d local drug convictions (<strong>Drug</strong> Policy<br />

Alli<strong>an</strong>ce, 2016). Despite this hyper <strong>in</strong>carceration, rates of addiction <strong>an</strong>d drug crime have primarily<br />

rema<strong>in</strong>ed static despite the Americ<strong>an</strong> prison population explod<strong>in</strong>g by over 700% from 1970 to<br />

2010 (Flatow, 2014). The impacts on communities of color have been exp<strong>an</strong>sive, <strong>an</strong>d a full<br />

account<strong>in</strong>g of the harmful effects are beyond the scope of this project.<br />

With<strong>in</strong> the past 20 years, America's War on <strong>Drug</strong>s has faced a new development - the<br />

exp<strong>an</strong>sion of a widespread “opioid epidemic” - which has swept the nation. While created by a<br />

multitude of factors, the epidemic is largely seen as a confluence of economic malaise <strong>in</strong> broad<br />

swaths of the country, especially Appalachia <strong>an</strong>d the Southern United States; the massive<br />

exp<strong>an</strong>sion of prescribed opioid-based pa<strong>in</strong>killers such as Perdue Pharmaceuticals “oxycont<strong>in</strong>,” <strong>an</strong>d<br />

the availability of less expensive hero<strong>in</strong> from Mexico (Qu<strong>in</strong>ones, 2015). Unlike the coca<strong>in</strong>e<br />

epidemic of the 1980s, this opioid epidemic produced a massive <strong>in</strong>crease <strong>in</strong> overdose deaths,<br />

<strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> white communities, which largely avoided the worst impacts (both addiction <strong>an</strong>d<br />

police crackdowns) of the coca<strong>in</strong>e p<strong>an</strong>ics of the 1980s <strong>an</strong>d 1990s. Opioid overdose deaths have<br />

more th<strong>an</strong> quadrupled from 2000 to 2019 (National Institute on <strong>Drug</strong> Abuse, 2020). Visions of<br />

young men <strong>an</strong>d women wither<strong>in</strong>g away under the grip of opioid addiction shocked the nation,<br />

lead<strong>in</strong>g m<strong>an</strong>y to wonder what radical <strong>in</strong>terventions were needed to address this crisis.<br />

These historical realities create the environment for what one could call the “st<strong>an</strong>dard<br />

model” of drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. This model is <strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>tellectual <strong>in</strong>tervention to the ideological<br />

“common sense” power<strong>in</strong>g of the previously established narrative around the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s. In a<br />

nutshell, it might sound someth<strong>in</strong>g like the follow<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

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“In the face of this wave of overdose deaths, <strong>an</strong>d after decades of prodd<strong>in</strong>g from public<br />

health officials, harm reduction activists, <strong>an</strong>d concerned citizens nationwide, there is <strong>an</strong><br />

<strong>in</strong>creas<strong>in</strong>g focus on fundamentally reconceptualiz<strong>in</strong>g addiction <strong>an</strong>d drug policy <strong>in</strong><br />

America, center<strong>in</strong>g on shift<strong>in</strong>g the issue of drug addiction from the crim<strong>in</strong>al legal system<br />

to <strong>an</strong> approach driven by public health. The current environment of crim<strong>in</strong>aliz<strong>in</strong>g drug use<br />

creates a chill<strong>in</strong>g effect, deterr<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>dividuals from seek<strong>in</strong>g treatment <strong>an</strong>d even call<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

police when someone doses from fear of be<strong>in</strong>g crim<strong>in</strong>alized for their addiction. Moreover,<br />

the disruption of cycl<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> <strong>an</strong>d out of jail prevents stability <strong>in</strong> terms of employment <strong>an</strong>d<br />

hous<strong>in</strong>g, which is necessary for <strong>in</strong>dividuals to effectively recover from addiction. Rather<br />

th<strong>an</strong> serv<strong>in</strong>g as <strong>an</strong> essential deterrent to addiction, it creates social disruption, which is<br />

perpetuat<strong>in</strong>g the addiction crisis.<br />

As opposed to view<strong>in</strong>g drug addiction as <strong>an</strong> issue of personal moral fail<strong>in</strong>g, drug addiction<br />

should be viewed as a disease, met with treatment, not <strong>in</strong>carceration. Rather th<strong>an</strong> spend<strong>in</strong>g<br />

tens of thous<strong>an</strong>ds of dollars per year <strong>in</strong>carcerat<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>dividuals who were suffer<strong>in</strong>g from<br />

drug addiction, a key driver <strong>in</strong> the exp<strong>an</strong>sion of the prison system, putt<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>dividuals <strong>in</strong><br />

treatment would save millions of dollars <strong>an</strong>d allow <strong>in</strong>dividuals to return to be<strong>in</strong>g<br />

productive members of society. <strong>Drug</strong>s should thus be decrim<strong>in</strong>alized, with policy<br />

implementation to be overseen by public health professionals, addiction treatment<br />

specialists, researchers, <strong>an</strong>d community advocates, allow<strong>in</strong>g for a more compassionate,<br />

evidence-based approach to drug policy to take shape. This might <strong>in</strong>clude center<strong>in</strong>g<br />

addiction responses on hous<strong>in</strong>g, opioid replacement treatment such as methadone <strong>an</strong>d<br />

suboxone, tra<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g police <strong>an</strong>d other <strong>in</strong>dividuals on the delivery of overdose-revers<strong>in</strong>g<br />

agents like naloxone, <strong>an</strong>d replace the crim<strong>in</strong>al legal system with parallel <strong>in</strong>stitutions<br />

specifically designed to address addicts, such as the “deferral commissions” pioneered by<br />

Portugal, which should be modeled <strong>in</strong> the United States.”<br />

This is the start<strong>in</strong>g po<strong>in</strong>t for the vast majority of research on decrim<strong>in</strong>alization produced by<br />

ma<strong>in</strong>stream academic <strong>an</strong>d nonprofit <strong>in</strong>stitutions. As such, it is essential to start at this narrative to<br />

explore its underly<strong>in</strong>g assumptions <strong>an</strong>d broader political implications.<br />

On Methodology - The Eurocentric Nature of “Scientism” <strong>an</strong>d Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong><br />

<strong>Paradigm</strong>s<br />

The question of methodology is perpetually overlooked <strong>an</strong>d under-theorized <strong>in</strong> the context<br />

of research. There are assumptions as to what constitutes “quality” research claims <strong>an</strong>d how it<br />

relates to the scientific focus on qu<strong>an</strong>tification <strong>an</strong>d ostensible research objectivity. These<br />

prerequisites are essential before <strong>in</strong>terrogat<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>y literature base.<br />

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While the scientific method claims to seek universal knowledge through a system of<br />

empirical validation, <strong>in</strong> reality, the cultural assumptions of those who build scientific <strong>in</strong>stitutions<br />

impede the <strong>in</strong>troduction of culturally specific ways of th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>to the paradigm. Morg<strong>an</strong> State<br />

University professor Jerome Schiele discusses this <strong>in</strong> his critique of the concept of objectivity,<br />

writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“...Although qualitative methods may do a better job at elicit<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>-depth aspects of <strong>an</strong><br />

<strong>in</strong>dividual's or group's <strong>in</strong>terpretation of the world th<strong>an</strong> qu<strong>an</strong>titative methods, qualitative<br />

methods also are restricted <strong>in</strong> their ability to know <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>terpret hum<strong>an</strong> behavior. This is<br />

partly because most current qualitative methods, similar to qu<strong>an</strong>titative methods, share the<br />

same underly<strong>in</strong>g assumptions regard<strong>in</strong>g knowledge/scientific <strong>in</strong>quiry that orig<strong>in</strong>ate from<br />

Eurocentric culture; they are as follows:<br />

1. Hum<strong>an</strong> bias <strong>an</strong>d emotion should be controlled, reduced, or elim<strong>in</strong>ated <strong>in</strong> hum<strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>quiry.<br />

2. There should be separate expectations for the observer <strong>an</strong>d the observed, even if their<br />

reciprocity is acknowledged. In other words, the observer <strong>an</strong>d observed are usually viewed<br />

as separate entities, often-times with mutually exclusive roles.<br />

3. When collect<strong>in</strong>g, process<strong>in</strong>g, <strong>an</strong>d cod<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>formation, phenomena should be reduced to<br />

their simplest forms (i.e. reductionism).<br />

4. Directly observable (i.e., material) phenomena are deemed the most legitimate forms of<br />

reality. In other words, deemphasis is placed on unseen or spiritual aspects of reality.<br />

5. Rational, l<strong>in</strong>ear, <strong>an</strong>d dichotomous th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g are the primary modes through which hum<strong>an</strong><br />

behavior is understood <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>terpreted…” (Schiele, 2000)<br />

The forms of thought that Schiele identifies l<strong>in</strong>ks to notions of a rational, th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g subject with<br />

l<strong>in</strong>ks to Europe<strong>an</strong> philosophy from René Descartes to classical liberal philosophers like John<br />

Locke. Before we underst<strong>an</strong>d the implications these specific characteristics have for research of<br />

drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization, it is vital that we:<br />

1. Acknowledge that these differences are real <strong>an</strong>d me<strong>an</strong><strong>in</strong>gful<br />

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2. Underst<strong>an</strong>d that paradigmatic <strong>an</strong>alysis asks you to view the content of research through the<br />

lens of the cultural assumptions embedded <strong>in</strong> the research framework <strong>an</strong>d the <strong>in</strong>stitutions<br />

which produce <strong>an</strong>d support researchers.<br />

Methodology sets the parameters for what one is capable of envision<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> their research<br />

project. Assumptions embedded with<strong>in</strong> the researcher shapes the scope of research questions <strong>an</strong>d<br />

determ<strong>in</strong>es which forms of data collection <strong>an</strong>d evaluation are likely to be pursued. Florida State<br />

University professor Na’im Akbar <strong>an</strong>alyses this with<strong>in</strong> the context of psychology, writ<strong>in</strong>g :<br />

The model determ<strong>in</strong>es the <strong>an</strong>swers of your research <strong>in</strong> that it predeterm<strong>in</strong>es what will be<br />

seen when the <strong>in</strong>vestigation beg<strong>in</strong>s. The questions predeterm<strong>in</strong>e the <strong>an</strong>swers (Clark, et als,<br />

1976). The method determ<strong>in</strong>es how to look. The method, predeterm<strong>in</strong>ed by the model<br />

dictates how the questions are go<strong>in</strong>g to be <strong>an</strong>swered. The method is selected as <strong>an</strong><br />

<strong>in</strong>strument of the pre-established model. Contrary to the usually more objective view of<br />

research methodology the emphasis here is that the model precedes the search determ<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

by the qualities pursued <strong>an</strong>d it is selected to identify those qualities to the exclusion of other<br />

sets of qualities. Scientific methodology is only one such <strong>in</strong>strument of pursuit. The<br />

modality determ<strong>in</strong>es the expression of implementation of what the method has identified.<br />

Structured by a model, guided by a method, the modality becomes the particular form or<br />

matter of expression to be determ<strong>in</strong>ed by the research <strong>in</strong>vestigation. Given this progression<br />

both the questions <strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>swers of the research agenda are actually predeterm<strong>in</strong>ed by the<br />

paradigm. (Akbar, 2003).<br />

An example from the medical world c<strong>an</strong> help emphasize how these <strong>in</strong>sights work <strong>in</strong> function. One<br />

well known example of the scientific process reflect<strong>in</strong>g cultural bias relates to Americ<strong>an</strong> slavery<br />

<strong>an</strong>d the medicalization <strong>an</strong>d pathologization of the agency of people of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent by <strong>an</strong><br />

ostensibly “objective” scientific establishment. University of Nevada - Las Vegas professor<br />

Harriet Wash<strong>in</strong>gton notes that doctors often diagnosed slaves who r<strong>an</strong> away from the pl<strong>an</strong>tation<br />

with the disease of drapetom<strong>an</strong>ia, or <strong>an</strong> irrational desire to w<strong>an</strong>der or walk away from the captivity<br />

(Wash<strong>in</strong>gton, 2015). As a solution, slave owners distributed “prescriptions” of “10 drops of<br />

rawhide”, or ten lashes, as well as cont<strong>in</strong>ued <strong>in</strong>f<strong>an</strong>tilization of slaves to “cure” drapetom<strong>an</strong>ia.<br />

M<strong>an</strong>y would counter that this is a perversion of the scientific process. They would argue<br />

that contemporary scientific research disproves the reality of biological racism, dispell<strong>in</strong>g these<br />

sorts of myths <strong>an</strong>d prov<strong>in</strong>g the objectivity of science <strong>an</strong>d the value of the methodology. The truth<br />

of the treatment of Black people <strong>in</strong> the medical world disproves this assertion. University of Texas-<br />

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Aust<strong>in</strong> professor John Hoberm<strong>an</strong> writes <strong>in</strong> his book Black <strong>an</strong>d Blue that medicalized racism<br />

aga<strong>in</strong>st Black people cont<strong>in</strong>ues to be pervasive <strong>an</strong>d precisely reflects assumptions around Black<br />

patients, which are l<strong>in</strong>ked to slavery. Black patients are often prescribed less pa<strong>in</strong> medication, with<br />

research show<strong>in</strong>g this stems from <strong>an</strong> assumption among medical providers that Black patients are<br />

more likely to abuse drugs <strong>an</strong>d also that they feel less pa<strong>in</strong>. 2 out of 10 doctors said they believed<br />

Black patients have “thicker sk<strong>in</strong>” th<strong>an</strong> whites, a trope which l<strong>in</strong>ks back to slavery <strong>an</strong>d the belief<br />

that Blacks had a hardier constitution <strong>an</strong>d resist<strong>an</strong>ce to mosquito bites which made them uniquely<br />

suited for hard labor <strong>in</strong> the South (ibid). Thus, it is the doctors, <strong>in</strong>dividuals who should be the most<br />

immune from bias with their extensive scientific tra<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g, who seem to be propagat<strong>in</strong>g some of the<br />

worst examples of racism. F<strong>in</strong>ally, the psychological or even spiritual suffer<strong>in</strong>g m<strong>an</strong>y Black<br />

Americ<strong>an</strong>s face deal<strong>in</strong>g with racism is often completely ignored by medical practitioners. Medical<br />

practitioners cont<strong>in</strong>ue to falsely pathologize Black cop<strong>in</strong>g mech<strong>an</strong>isms such as overeat<strong>in</strong>g,<br />

smok<strong>in</strong>g, or drug use as “personal failures” need<strong>in</strong>g medical <strong>in</strong>tervention; <strong>in</strong>stead of the<br />

m<strong>an</strong>ifestations of deep historical oppression requir<strong>in</strong>g more comprehensive solutions.<br />

A more <strong>in</strong>-depth exam<strong>in</strong>ation of Hoberm<strong>an</strong>’s <strong>an</strong>alysis shows that these deficits <strong>in</strong><br />

underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g are l<strong>in</strong>ked to some of the traits of eurocentric scientific study, which Schiele<br />

isolates. As opposed to ignor<strong>in</strong>g race, Hoberm<strong>an</strong> found that medical programs often pursued<br />

extremely perfunctory, <strong>in</strong>dividual-based discussions of racism, which stressed Schiele’s po<strong>in</strong>t<br />

about check<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>dividual bias. As a result of the failure of these programs to engage <strong>in</strong> subst<strong>an</strong>tive<br />

<strong>an</strong>alysis of the structural reality of racism, m<strong>an</strong>y doctors boiled these discussions down to<br />

simplistic notions of not harbor<strong>in</strong>g explicitly negative beliefs around racial m<strong>in</strong>orities. This<br />

allowed the implicit m<strong>an</strong>ifestations of racism to go unchecked, as m<strong>an</strong>y of these medicalized<br />

m<strong>an</strong>ifestations were not necessarily solely based upon negative bias by the medical professors but<br />

also their attempts to establish patterns out of what they see as “objective” empirical observations<br />

on patients of different races. This shows the d<strong>an</strong>gers of the “reductionism” that Scheile discusses.<br />

Moreover, it ignores a consistent factor discussed throughout Hobernm<strong>an</strong>’s work - the poor<br />

communication between Black patients <strong>an</strong>d white doctors. Studies have shown doctors often<br />

lecture to Black patients, talk more slowly to them, <strong>an</strong>d show a general pattern of <strong>in</strong>f<strong>an</strong>tilization<br />

or <strong>an</strong> enh<strong>an</strong>ced belief that Black patients are more likely to be “non-compli<strong>an</strong>t” (Hoberm<strong>an</strong>, 2012,<br />

Nittle, 2020). This shows the flaw of the Eurocentric totem of valu<strong>in</strong>g seem<strong>in</strong>gly objective<br />

“empiricism.” Black patients often don’t trust white doctors, me<strong>an</strong><strong>in</strong>g they are usually not entirely<br />

honest with them about their fears, pa<strong>in</strong>, or symptoms. Black patients are less likely to compla<strong>in</strong><br />

about pa<strong>in</strong> to white doctors because they don’t trust they will underst<strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>d maybe even fear that<br />

they are “drug-seek<strong>in</strong>g” or will be seen as be<strong>in</strong>g improperly differential to medical authority. This<br />

silence leads some white doctors to believe “objectively” that Blacks feel less pa<strong>in</strong> because they<br />

talk about it less th<strong>an</strong> their white patients (ibid). These failures relate not only to these doctors not<br />

hav<strong>in</strong>g enough data, or the “science” be<strong>in</strong>g done <strong>in</strong>correctly but at a fundamental level, the frame<br />

be<strong>in</strong>g applied is flawed <strong>an</strong>d needs to be fundamentally questioned. While this example addresses<br />

the broader medical system, it clearly challenges the notion that shift<strong>in</strong>g the structure of addiction<br />

research from the crim<strong>in</strong>al legal system to the medical system is <strong>in</strong>herently positive.<br />

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While it is seductive to chalk these epistemic limitations up to pure hum<strong>an</strong> nature, research<br />

shows the history of how these ideas of “scientific objectivity” <strong>an</strong>d “universalism” mirror the<br />

history of western imperial control. Former Hunter College professor Marimba Ani uses the<br />

philosophy of John Stewart Mill to make a more signific<strong>an</strong>t po<strong>in</strong>t around the very concept of<br />

“social science” as <strong>an</strong> attempt to br<strong>in</strong>g the scientific method to the social world as <strong>in</strong>herently <strong>an</strong><br />

act of control <strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong> effort to leverage science as a tool of power. Ani writes:<br />

“Formidable m<strong>in</strong>ds were committed to the task of impart<strong>in</strong>g “objectivity" <strong>an</strong>d<br />

“universality” to Western social science… For Mill the <strong>in</strong>ability to predict hum<strong>an</strong> behavior<br />

has noth<strong>in</strong>g to do with a qualitative difference between the social <strong>an</strong>d the natural or the<br />

physical. His conclusion <strong>in</strong> this regard is not <strong>in</strong>fluenced by a recognition of the hum<strong>an</strong><br />

spirit, but is rather based on what he th<strong>in</strong>ks is a qu<strong>an</strong>titative complexity of causal factors,<br />

but the desire to predict <strong>an</strong>d to control (the uncontrollable Europe<strong>an</strong> need to order)<br />

compels him to apply the “scientific method“ to social phenomena. And so on the level of<br />

theory, that is, superficially, sociology becomes, at best, a collection of <strong>in</strong>signific<strong>an</strong>t<br />

descriptive generalizations, which reflect <strong>an</strong>d encourage a dehum<strong>an</strong>iz<strong>in</strong>g concept of<br />

hum<strong>an</strong> nature, characteristic of the culture <strong>in</strong> which the discipl<strong>in</strong>e was created. Its<br />

epistemological purpose is to give Europe<strong>an</strong>s a feel<strong>in</strong>g of <strong>in</strong>tellectual control that they do<br />

not have, <strong>in</strong> <strong>an</strong> area that they do not underst<strong>an</strong>d. Someth<strong>in</strong>g else is happen<strong>in</strong>g here. The<br />

ideology of progress (while on seem<strong>in</strong>gly sound foot<strong>in</strong>g when applied to the arena of<br />

technology), when viewed critically, reveals the <strong>in</strong>eptness of Europe<strong>an</strong>s <strong>in</strong> the social,<br />

psychological, moral <strong>an</strong>d spiritual spheres. Europe<strong>an</strong>s needed to be able to “prove“ to<br />

themselves <strong>an</strong>d others that they also represented the epitome of moral <strong>an</strong>d social progress.<br />

It is for this reason that the edifice of Europe<strong>an</strong> social science was constructed. Most<br />

import<strong>an</strong>tly this “social science“ provides a vehicle for the exportation of Europe<strong>an</strong><br />

ideology by giv<strong>in</strong>g Europe<strong>an</strong>s the “right“ to speak for all people.” (Ani, 1994)<br />

While recogniz<strong>in</strong>g the complexity of hum<strong>an</strong> be<strong>in</strong>gs fight<strong>in</strong>g abstract science, Mills feels compelled<br />

to apply the scientific method to social relations, <strong>an</strong> act which Ani sees as a dim<strong>in</strong>ution of the<br />

hum<strong>an</strong> spirit <strong>an</strong>d furthermore a culturally specific desire to acquire the right to speak for other<br />

cultures through the lens of these superior “objective” social sciences. The <strong>in</strong>ability to truly<br />

capture the complexity of hum<strong>an</strong> social relationships <strong>in</strong> social science renders much of social<br />

science, for Ani, “a collection of <strong>in</strong>signific<strong>an</strong>t generalizations''. While this may seem harsh, one<br />

need only look to the history of addiction studies to see how this theory may help expla<strong>in</strong> what c<strong>an</strong><br />

only be described as the morass of often contradictory <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>effective expl<strong>an</strong>ations for addiction<br />

<strong>in</strong> the literature. Despite the st<strong>an</strong>dard model describ<strong>in</strong>g addiction as a disease which is ripe for<br />

scientific m<strong>an</strong>agement by public health professionals, the social realities of addiction have<br />

cont<strong>in</strong>ued to frustrate researchers attempt<strong>in</strong>g to apply traditional scientific methods to this<br />

“disease”. Bruce Alex<strong>an</strong>der, the C<strong>an</strong>adi<strong>an</strong> addiction researcher known for his “rat park”<br />

experiments, comments on how the social <strong>an</strong>d spiritual nature of addiction frustrates attempts to<br />

apply traditional scientific methodology to the disease, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

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“The mysterious tr<strong>an</strong>sformation of ord<strong>in</strong>ary people <strong>in</strong>to drug addicts urgently requires<br />

expl<strong>an</strong>ation. Fortunately, addiction is well suited to theoretical <strong>an</strong>alysis because it refers<br />

to a s<strong>in</strong>gle recognisable phenomenon, whatever drug is <strong>in</strong>volved, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g alcohol.<br />

Unfortunately, however, <strong>an</strong>alysis of addiction is h<strong>in</strong>dered by the secretiveness of addicts,<br />

because drug addictions are socially abhorrent or illegal. People <strong>in</strong> this situation have<br />

m<strong>an</strong>y reasons to lie to authorities. It is perhaps for this reason that theories of addiction<br />

are so often drawn from research on laboratory rats, <strong>an</strong> aspect of current scholarship<br />

that—I predict—future generations will f<strong>in</strong>d hilarious…<br />

S<strong>in</strong>ce the 19th century, however, the conventional wisdom has consistently viewed<br />

addiction as maladaptive <strong>an</strong>d expla<strong>in</strong>ed it with malign hidden causes like loss of will power<br />

to ‘addictive drugs’, unconscious fixations of the libido, deficiencies <strong>in</strong> the bra<strong>in</strong> reward<br />

system, neural sensitisation to the re<strong>in</strong>forc<strong>in</strong>g effects of drugs, <strong>an</strong>d genes for addiction—<br />

or some comb<strong>in</strong>ation of these. But theories based on these hidden causes have failed to<br />

generate either a generally believable account of addiction or <strong>an</strong>yth<strong>in</strong>g more th<strong>an</strong><br />

marg<strong>in</strong>ally effective forms of therapy. A reasonable conclusion after more th<strong>an</strong> a century<br />

of frustrated search<strong>in</strong>g for the hidden underly<strong>in</strong>g disorder is that it does not exist. Addiction<br />

is, <strong>in</strong> fact, not maladaptive for grow<strong>in</strong>g numbers of people under the dislocat<strong>in</strong>g conditions<br />

of our era. There is no underly<strong>in</strong>g disorder. Although only dislocated people become<br />

addicted, m<strong>an</strong>y severely dislocated people<br />

live <strong>an</strong>d die <strong>in</strong> ways that c<strong>an</strong>not be called ‘addiction’ without stretch<strong>in</strong>g the word too th<strong>in</strong>.<br />

M<strong>an</strong>y of them ‘get by’ by d<strong>in</strong>t of admirable resolution <strong>an</strong>d a little help from their friends.<br />

Others may become depressed, suicidal, apathetic, murderous, or mentally erratic, rather<br />

th<strong>an</strong> addicted. Thus, dislocation is a necessary, but not sufficient, cause of addiction.<br />

As psychosocial <strong>in</strong>tegration is a fundamental hum<strong>an</strong> need, <strong>an</strong>d free-market society, by its<br />

nature, produces mass dislocation at all times (not just dur<strong>in</strong>g times of collapse), <strong>an</strong>d as<br />

addiction is the predom<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>t way of adapt<strong>in</strong>g to dislocation, addiction is endemic <strong>an</strong>d<br />

spread<strong>in</strong>g fast. Free-market society c<strong>an</strong> no more be addiction-free th<strong>an</strong> it c<strong>an</strong> be free of<br />

<strong>in</strong>tense competition, <strong>in</strong>come disparity, environmental destruction, unequal access to lifesav<strong>in</strong>g<br />

medical care, or dishonest bus<strong>in</strong>ess practices. There c<strong>an</strong> be no ‘technical fix’ or<br />

‘market solution’ for problems that are built <strong>in</strong>to the structure of society itself. Instead,<br />

today’s society must either modify its free-market structure enough to keep its side effects<br />

under control or watch these side effects cont<strong>in</strong>ue to spread.” (Alex<strong>an</strong>der, Bruce, 2010).<br />

Ani expla<strong>in</strong>s how social science reflects a technocentric vision of material progress, <strong>an</strong>d Alex<strong>an</strong>der<br />

expla<strong>in</strong>s how our contemporary addiction crisis is l<strong>in</strong>ked to the loss of psychosocial <strong>in</strong>tegration<br />

this “free market society” produces. If this is true, it is essential that we not use the scientific<br />

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paradigms <strong>an</strong>d tools created by the social sciences of a “free market society” to attempt to solve<br />

the problems this society produces (i.e., addiction).<br />

Alternative Methodologies - Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong> <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong>s<br />

While the ten<strong>an</strong>ts of the research Schiele outl<strong>in</strong>es may represent the ten<strong>an</strong>ts of the dom<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>t<br />

methodology of scientific research, it is not the only paradigm available. Here we c<strong>an</strong> beg<strong>in</strong> to<br />

<strong>an</strong>alyze what I call Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong>s. I use this specific term as it is <strong>in</strong>clusive<br />

of multiple different ways of describ<strong>in</strong>g research methodologies guided by the culture, knowledge<br />

production practices, <strong>an</strong>d experiences of people of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent. As there is diversity with<strong>in</strong><br />

Afric<strong>an</strong> peoples, there are multiple different Black scholars with different versions of what could<br />

be called Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong>s. The goal here is not to attempt to parse one from<br />

the other meticulously but to take a general conceptual underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of what the paradigms br<strong>in</strong>g<br />

to the research process <strong>an</strong>d what general characteristics reflect researchers us<strong>in</strong>g these<br />

methodologies. One additional note on term<strong>in</strong>ology, m<strong>an</strong>y scholars use the term “Afrocentric” to<br />

describe these practices, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g m<strong>an</strong>y who will be cited <strong>in</strong> this report. As this term is used<br />

<strong>in</strong>creas<strong>in</strong>gly to describe the specific methods of research produced by Temple University professor<br />

Molefi As<strong>an</strong>te <strong>an</strong>d his academic disciples, we feel it is more accurate to use the term “Afric<strong>an</strong><br />

<strong>Centered</strong>” to reflect the diversity of scholars beyond those directly affiliated with As<strong>an</strong>te <strong>an</strong>d<br />

Temple University.<br />

Na’im Akbar outl<strong>in</strong>es the ten<strong>an</strong>ts of what he calls the Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong> <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong><br />

(i.e. AARP), a process where the author attempts to proceed through four dist<strong>in</strong>ct research phrases<br />

to produce knowledge explicitly <strong>in</strong> the service of liberation. Akbar writes:<br />

“The second issue of methodology is the "how" or types of research procedures that<br />

appropriately address the model. There are four (4) general types of research which are<br />

most relev<strong>an</strong>t to <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong> paradigm: (1) theoretical, (2) critique of falsification<br />

(deconstruction) research, (3) ethnographic, <strong>an</strong>d (4) heuristic (construction or<br />

reconstruction) research.<br />

Theoretical research is for the purpose of generat<strong>in</strong>g questions. Theory development grows<br />

from self-reflective observation <strong>an</strong>d the <strong>in</strong>trospective <strong>an</strong>alysis of ones (collective)<br />

experiences. No data beyond ones subjective <strong>an</strong>d affective appraisal of the observer's<br />

experience are necessary. This is not unlike the procedure for the ground break<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>d<br />

paradigm-sett<strong>in</strong>g work of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, William James, B.F. Sk<strong>in</strong>ner <strong>an</strong>d the<br />

vast array of lum<strong>in</strong>aries <strong>in</strong> all fields of social science research who never produced a<br />

control group while lay<strong>in</strong>g the corner- stone for Western thought. Once a logically<br />

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coherent <strong>an</strong>d systematic theory is <strong>in</strong> place, then one elaboration may be to raise questions<br />

that may require empirical <strong>an</strong>swers. The empirical question is neither necessary nor<br />

sufficient as evidence for the validity of theory. Consider<strong>in</strong>g the conspicuous absence of<br />

<strong>in</strong>trospection <strong>an</strong>d self-study with<strong>in</strong> the context of the appropriate worldview for Afric<strong>an</strong><br />

people, then it would seem that empirical questions would be premature <strong>in</strong> the absence of<br />

theoretical base from which to generate such questions.<br />

Curtis B<strong>an</strong>ks (1980) has identified "deconstructive" or falsification research as <strong>an</strong>other<br />

type of research. Such research is concerned with <strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>alysis of the construct validity of<br />

traditional research. The falsification researcher is concerned with demonstrat<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

fallacy of the <strong>in</strong>ferences <strong>an</strong>d the methodological distortions of that traditional research.<br />

This is a process beg<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g to undo the k<strong>in</strong>ds of destructive <strong>in</strong>ferences about Afric<strong>an</strong><br />

Americ<strong>an</strong>s such as we have described above that em<strong>an</strong>ated from traditional research.<br />

Falsification research <strong>in</strong>volves both theoretical dism<strong>an</strong>tl<strong>in</strong>g as well as empirical rebuttal.<br />

Ethnographic research is probably the only authentic form of empirical research that is<br />

appropriate for this po<strong>in</strong>t <strong>in</strong> our scientific method of development. This approach permits<br />

the researcher, hav<strong>in</strong>g passed the “Relationship [<strong>Research</strong>] Index” (Sow<strong>an</strong>de, 1971) to<br />

observe black people where they are <strong>an</strong>d to try fulfill<strong>in</strong>g the criteria of a worker with<strong>in</strong> the<br />

Afric<strong>an</strong> paradigm who c<strong>an</strong> beg<strong>in</strong> to identify those characteristics of Black people that are<br />

most fruitful <strong>in</strong> the light of our research model. Rather th<strong>an</strong> catalog<strong>in</strong>g deficiencies of<br />

Black people, the ethnographer researcher c<strong>an</strong> identify those strengths <strong>an</strong>d self affirmative<br />

patterns that have facilitated our growth.<br />

F<strong>in</strong>ally, heuristic research offers the bridge to our discussion of modalities. This research<br />

follows from the ethnographic research <strong>in</strong> that it beg<strong>in</strong>s to articulate culturally adaptive<br />

styles <strong>an</strong>d beg<strong>in</strong>s to demonstrate the benefits, which come from adapt<strong>in</strong>g that style. The<br />

objective of this research is to fortify those structures that have been demonstrated to be<br />

beneficial to the survival <strong>an</strong>d adv<strong>an</strong>cement of Black people. If tests are to be used, what<br />

k<strong>in</strong>ds of tests would be most appropriate <strong>in</strong> identify<strong>in</strong>g those qualities that have emerged<br />

as valuable <strong>an</strong>d effective for survival from the ethnographic research. (Akbar, 2003).<br />

While named the “Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong>” research paradigm by Akbar, this 4 part methodology is a<br />

good start<strong>in</strong>g po<strong>in</strong>t for <strong>an</strong> em<strong>an</strong>cipatory research methodology for <strong>in</strong>dividuals of <strong>an</strong>y race.<br />

Theoretical research does not take <strong>in</strong>to account the exist<strong>in</strong>g research <strong>in</strong> the field. In contrast,<br />

deconstruction research attempts to question the underly<strong>in</strong>g assumptions beh<strong>in</strong>d exist<strong>in</strong>g research,<br />

with <strong>an</strong> underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g that <strong>in</strong> a society structured by racism/white supremacy, no research c<strong>an</strong><br />

extricate itself from reflect<strong>in</strong>g the cultural bias of the researchers <strong>an</strong>d is used <strong>in</strong> some way,<br />

accord<strong>in</strong>g to Ani, as a tool to help strengthen the exist<strong>in</strong>g system of power. Ethnographic research<br />

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is both <strong>an</strong> attempt to account for the researcher's cultural background <strong>an</strong>d potential bias, <strong>an</strong>d also<br />

<strong>an</strong> account of the cultural characteristics of the groups of people be<strong>in</strong>g studied. This goes beyond<br />

a “strength-based” perspective that sees culture as a system that c<strong>an</strong> help us underst<strong>an</strong>d how to<br />

<strong>in</strong>terpret behavior <strong>an</strong>d to predict how different <strong>in</strong>terventions <strong>an</strong>d proposals might function.<br />

The research <strong>in</strong>dex is particularly import<strong>an</strong>t, as it challenges notions of scientific<br />

“objectivity”. M<strong>an</strong>y scholars with<strong>in</strong> the dom<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>t scientific tradition have tried to account for the<br />

bias of <strong>in</strong>dividual researchers, but, like Hoberm<strong>an</strong>’s discussion on the limits of sensitivity tra<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g<br />

of doctors, the argument is not simply that the <strong>in</strong>dividual researcher has some bias, but that the<br />

process <strong>an</strong>d methodology of scientific <strong>in</strong>quiry imbeds bias <strong>in</strong>to the process. Schiele cites both<br />

Akbar <strong>an</strong>d Ani <strong>in</strong> his critique of the concept of objectivity, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“The Afrocentric paradigm posits that s<strong>in</strong>ce research or knowledge <strong>in</strong>quiry is a "people<br />

made" activity, it, as with additional hum<strong>an</strong> creations <strong>an</strong>d activities, is <strong>in</strong>fluenced by, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

imbued with, hum<strong>an</strong> values (Akbar, 1994; As<strong>an</strong>te, 1990; Semmes, 1981). These values not<br />

only <strong>in</strong>fluence the process of a particular knowledge <strong>in</strong>quiry <strong>an</strong>d development paradigm<br />

but also shape the very structure <strong>an</strong>d philosophical tenets that undergird the process.<br />

Unlike the positivist/post-positivist paradigm, the Afrocentric paradigm does not posit the<br />

superiority or hierarchy of methods. The Afrocentric paradigm rejects Kerl<strong>in</strong>ger's (1979)<br />

assertion that "procedures of science are objective—not the scientist" (p. 264), because<br />

this exaggerates methodology's power to remove subjectivity from knowledge <strong>in</strong>quiry <strong>an</strong>d<br />

development. Methods are developed by people, <strong>an</strong>d the Afrocentric paradigm contends<br />

that all knowledge <strong>in</strong>quiry methods are subjective, reflect<strong>in</strong>g the ideas about knowledge<br />

<strong>in</strong>quiry <strong>an</strong>d development held by their creators.<br />

The Afrocentric paradigm also repudiates Popper's (1972) notion that objectivity is a<br />

system of org<strong>an</strong>ized/mutual critique—that science is objective because of the will<strong>in</strong>gness<br />

of the scientist to have his or her work critiqued by colleagues. Although Popper (1969)<br />

contends that it is rare for the social scientist to be value free, he still implies, similar to<br />

Kerl<strong>in</strong>ger, that objectivity lies <strong>in</strong> some sort of method (<strong>in</strong> his case, the critical method),<br />

thus aga<strong>in</strong> separat<strong>in</strong>g the method from the people who create <strong>an</strong>d subscribe to it. The<br />

notion that the critical th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g method <strong>in</strong> some way suspends the scientist's values while<br />

the scientist forms a critique is unfounded, Afrocentrically. Although the critical th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g<br />

method appears to be value neutral because of its focus on identify<strong>in</strong>g the pros <strong>an</strong>d cons<br />

of <strong>an</strong> idea, all critiques are permeated with the philosophical <strong>an</strong>d ideological preferences<br />

of the evaluator. Furthermore, critical <strong>an</strong>alysis is itself a value, <strong>in</strong> that it demonstrates the<br />

preference for a more subdued form of debate: by identify<strong>in</strong>g the pros <strong>an</strong>d cons of <strong>an</strong> idea<br />

uneffusively, one is misled <strong>in</strong>to believ<strong>in</strong>g that one's assessment of the idea is objective or<br />

at least fair. At the core of the Afrocentric vision that knowledge <strong>in</strong>quiry <strong>an</strong>d development<br />

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are value laden is the belief that objectivity is <strong>an</strong> illusion (Akbar,1984; Ani, 1994). It is<br />

believed to be illusionary because Afrocentricity disagrees with the notion of<br />

objectification, the belief that the knower should, <strong>an</strong>d c<strong>an</strong>, emotionally detach himself or<br />

herself from that which he or she is attempt<strong>in</strong>g to know—even if the targeted entities are<br />

hum<strong>an</strong>s <strong>an</strong>d their social environments. This, of course, nurtures the well-discussed<br />

"subject/object" duality. From <strong>an</strong> Afrocentric viewpo<strong>in</strong>t, this duality is <strong>in</strong>appropriate<br />

because "<strong>in</strong> the pure Afric<strong>an</strong>ized worldview of the unity of [people] <strong>an</strong>d the phenomenal<br />

world, there is no empty perceptual space between the self <strong>an</strong>d phenomena" (Dixon, 1976,<br />

p. 70). Further, this duality fosters <strong>an</strong>d re<strong>in</strong>forces a process of know<strong>in</strong>g that is sterile <strong>an</strong>d<br />

<strong>in</strong>complete.” (Schiele, 2000).<br />

Schiele argues the those who attempt to resurrect the notion of scientific objectivity confuse the<br />

perceived ability to detach their emotions from research <strong>an</strong>d focus on data as proof of their<br />

objectivity, where <strong>in</strong> reality their belief that they c<strong>an</strong> separate themselves from the world around<br />

them is <strong>an</strong> illusion <strong>an</strong>d fundamentally misconstrues the ability of the subject to exist outside of the<br />

world, <strong>an</strong>d other people. The idea of the th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g subject to be able to tr<strong>an</strong>scend the <strong>in</strong>fluences of<br />

the world, to create themselves as <strong>an</strong> autonomous be<strong>in</strong>g of pure logic, goes back to the famous<br />

statement of philosopher Rene Descartes “I th<strong>in</strong>k therefore I am.” Scholars of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent have<br />

often countered this view of rational, autonomous subjectivity with a notion of collective subject,<br />

with the hum<strong>an</strong> subject com<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>to be<strong>in</strong>g through their reciprocal relationships with others, often<br />

expressed through the notion of “Ubuntu” <strong>an</strong>d the phrase “I am because we are”. This seem<strong>in</strong>gly<br />

academic dist<strong>in</strong>ction reflects a deep divide between two different systems of thought, with the<br />

AARP challeng<strong>in</strong>g the researcher's ability to separate themselves from their research <strong>an</strong>d forc<strong>in</strong>g<br />

them to take accountability for how their research <strong>in</strong>teracts with the world.<br />

This is import<strong>an</strong>t because the critical 4th stage of Akbar’s AARP, heuristic research,<br />

suggests that research f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>gs should be applied to make recommendations for what should be<br />

done to materially improve conditions for the oppressed. While the dom<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>t vision of research<br />

views knowledge <strong>in</strong> <strong>an</strong>d of itself as a laudable goal <strong>an</strong>d seeks to turn research f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>gs <strong>in</strong>to grist<br />

for the mill of scientific progress (i.e., more research), the AARP says explicitly research f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>gs<br />

should be used to recommend ch<strong>an</strong>ges to the world. This is often seen as outside the scope of the<br />

academic’s role, which is to produce knowledge that others may use to recommend political<br />

<strong>in</strong>terventions, but to be <strong>in</strong>volved directly <strong>in</strong> advocat<strong>in</strong>g policy ch<strong>an</strong>ges would violate scientific<br />

notions of “objectivity.” AARP recognizes that objectivity <strong>an</strong>d the notion that the researcher<br />

should be morally separated from the applications <strong>an</strong>d ramifications of their research is false <strong>an</strong>d<br />

obscures the responsibility the researcher has to use research as a tool to address the material<br />

conditions of oppression. This is not to say em<strong>an</strong>cipatory research has the trust, or capability, to<br />

elim<strong>in</strong>ate white supremacy, but that it has its own role to play <strong>in</strong> the struggle for liberation.<br />

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Just as the dom<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>t mode of scientific <strong>in</strong>quiry c<strong>an</strong> be seen as reflect<strong>in</strong>g specific cultural<br />

traits, evaluations of research paradigms for people of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent c<strong>an</strong> be seen as reflect<strong>in</strong>g<br />

the cultural traditions of Afric<strong>an</strong> people. This is not to say these traditions are superior to <strong>an</strong>y<br />

others, but that they have been under valued with<strong>in</strong> academic <strong>in</strong>stitutions which have tacitly valued<br />

research methodologies which reflect the previously discussed Eurocentric values of “objectivity’,<br />

“reductionism”, technophilia, <strong>an</strong>d subject/object dualism. In his expl<strong>an</strong>ation of what he calls the<br />

Afrocentric social work research paradigm (there is diversity even amongst Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong><br />

<strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong>s) Schiele contrasts a view of progressivism - the assumed notion of liberar<br />

progress through progressive scientific method vigorously test<strong>in</strong>g methodologies <strong>an</strong>d data claims,<br />

discard<strong>in</strong>g the <strong>in</strong>ferior ones <strong>an</strong>d progressively pick<strong>in</strong>g the “best”, with <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong> centered visions<br />

which respects the possibility of <strong>an</strong>cient wisdom <strong>an</strong>d rejects the dichotomous concept of<br />

knowledge. He writes:<br />

“In Afrocentric social work research, tradition <strong>an</strong>d consensus are key elements. Horton<br />

(1993) ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong>s that knowledge development tends to be "traditionalistic" <strong>an</strong>d<br />

"consensual" with<strong>in</strong> the Afric<strong>an</strong> framework. Accord<strong>in</strong>g to Horton (1993), a traditionalistic<br />

<strong>an</strong>d consensual concept of knowledge development is one <strong>in</strong> which (1) the major precepts<br />

of a community's knowledge are thought to have been developed <strong>an</strong>d h<strong>an</strong>ded down by the<br />

<strong>an</strong>cients, <strong>an</strong>d (2) theoriz<strong>in</strong>g is carried out <strong>in</strong> a way that accentuates the commonalities,<br />

notwithst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g differences, among diverse ideas. In contrast, a progressivistic <strong>an</strong>d<br />

competitive concept of knowledge development is one where<strong>in</strong> (1) knowledge is seen as a<br />

process of gradual but steady improvement (i.e., future knowledge is thought to be better<br />

th<strong>an</strong> present knowledge <strong>an</strong>d present knowledge to be better th<strong>an</strong> past knowledge) , <strong>an</strong>d (2)<br />

the generation <strong>an</strong>d adv<strong>an</strong>cement of ideas takes on a competitive character <strong>in</strong> which various<br />

theories compete aggressively to demonstrate their superiority over rival theories <strong>in</strong><br />

expla<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>d predict<strong>in</strong>g social <strong>an</strong>d hum<strong>an</strong> phenomena.<br />

If Horton (1993) is correct about the Afrocentric paradigm's focus on tradition <strong>an</strong>d<br />

consensus <strong>in</strong> the knowledge development process, then that focus might be based on at<br />

least three assumptions:<br />

1. Knowledge that st<strong>an</strong>ds the test of time is worthy of cont<strong>in</strong>uation (Horton, 1993). This<br />

adage adv<strong>an</strong>ces the belief that much of what we need to know today about hum<strong>an</strong> behavior<br />

c<strong>an</strong> be found <strong>in</strong> the wisdom of the <strong>an</strong>cients. It asserts that for knowledge to be valid, it must<br />

endure the ultimate test of time. Time is essential because it is through the repetitious use<br />

of ideas by various groups across generations that the validity of ideas c<strong>an</strong> be adequately<br />

assessed. If ideas have been useful for past generations, it is suggested that they are, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

will be, relev<strong>an</strong>t for present <strong>an</strong>d future generations. This is <strong>in</strong> contrast to what Horton<br />

(1993) refers to as the "progressivistic" feature of knowledge development <strong>in</strong> the West (i.e.,<br />

knowledge is seen as a process of gradual but steady improvement).<br />

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2. Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>cients—especially those of the Nile Valley—are thought to have possessed<br />

supreme wisdom because their objective was to generate knowledge that would enable<br />

people to tap <strong>in</strong>to the complete, positive potentiality given to them by the Creator (Akbar,<br />

1994; As<strong>an</strong>te, 1990; Diop, 1991; Karenga, 1989; V<strong>an</strong> Sertima, 1989). By cultivat<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

beliefs that hum<strong>an</strong>s have great potential to tap <strong>in</strong>to the spirit <strong>an</strong>d essence of the Creator<br />

<strong>an</strong>d that science should not be separated from this pursuit, the Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>cients are thought<br />

to have possessed the moral <strong>in</strong>gredients for creat<strong>in</strong>g a society where<strong>in</strong> hum<strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>teractions<br />

<strong>an</strong>d ideals are undergirded by mutual respect, a concern for collective well-be<strong>in</strong>g,<br />

spirituality, <strong>an</strong>d a striv<strong>in</strong>g toward excellence.<br />

3. Each idea or theory uniquely adds to a different underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of the totality of the<br />

hum<strong>an</strong> experience. Afrocentric social work research asserts that no one theory is, or c<strong>an</strong><br />

be, robust enough to expla<strong>in</strong> all or most dimensions of social <strong>an</strong>d hum<strong>an</strong> phenomena.<br />

Rather, theories are conceived as uniquely different ways <strong>in</strong> which social <strong>an</strong>d hum<strong>an</strong><br />

phenomena c<strong>an</strong> be described <strong>an</strong>d expla<strong>in</strong>ed. They are unique <strong>in</strong> that they reflect<br />

<strong>in</strong>terpretations held by one <strong>in</strong>dividual or a cadre of like-m<strong>in</strong>ded <strong>in</strong>dividuals.<br />

Each theory serves to contribute a unique piece of underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g that c<strong>an</strong> be used to<br />

construct a complete picture of social life that limits or prevents knowledge hegemony.<br />

(Schiele, 2000).<br />

Scheile’s <strong>an</strong>alysis is essential, as it addresses <strong>an</strong> assumption that often props up around Afric<strong>an</strong><br />

centered research paradigms. They do not seek to replace the hegemony of eurocentric models of<br />

research with their own orthodoxy <strong>an</strong>d perspectives, <strong>in</strong>stead, the Afric<strong>an</strong> research paradigm seeks<br />

to bal<strong>an</strong>ce knowledge by <strong>in</strong>corporat<strong>in</strong>g often overlooked aspects. This reflects <strong>an</strong>other dist<strong>in</strong>ction<br />

often noted between eurocentric <strong>an</strong>d Afric<strong>an</strong> centered thought systems. The eurocentric scientific<br />

method assumes a dichotomous <strong>an</strong>d competitive vision of knowledge creation, where ideas are<br />

locked <strong>in</strong> mortal combat <strong>an</strong>d through objective experimentation <strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>alysis. The better idea w<strong>in</strong>s,<br />

<strong>an</strong>d the <strong>in</strong>ferior ideas are relegated to the dustb<strong>in</strong> of history. This might make some sense to<br />

scientific <strong>in</strong>quiry <strong>in</strong> fields like astronomy, where for some questions (such as the debate between<br />

the heliocentric or geocentric vision of the pl<strong>an</strong>etary system) there c<strong>an</strong> only be one correct <strong>an</strong>swer.<br />

As Ani notes, apply<strong>in</strong>g this methodology from material sciences to the social sciences obscures<br />

the complexity <strong>an</strong>d hum<strong>an</strong>ity <strong>an</strong>d the nature of racism that impacts our view of social sciences.<br />

Moreover, it ignores the political implications of even so-called objective, “hard” science, such as<br />

the heliocentric universe be<strong>in</strong>g attributed by m<strong>an</strong>y solely to the Greeks even though there is<br />

subst<strong>an</strong>tial cultural <strong>in</strong>termix<strong>in</strong>g between Egypt <strong>an</strong>d Ancient Greece, as well as often overlooked<br />

evidence that the heliocentric theory traces it roots to Ancient Egypt (V<strong>an</strong> Sertima, 1999). In<br />

contrast to this, Afric<strong>an</strong> systems of thought are often seen as diunital, seek<strong>in</strong>g to unite disparate<br />

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concepts <strong>an</strong>d f<strong>in</strong>d the truth embedded <strong>in</strong> them rather th<strong>an</strong> assume contrast<strong>in</strong>g ideas are<br />

diametrically opposed.<br />

It is crucial, along these l<strong>in</strong>es, that we del<strong>in</strong>eate the critical (“deconstructive”) components<br />

of Afric<strong>an</strong> centered research paradigms from “critical” research paradigms produced with<strong>in</strong> the<br />

“critical theory” tradition. A vital part of the dist<strong>in</strong>ction is centered around the heuristic component<br />

of the research. Rather th<strong>an</strong> recogniz<strong>in</strong>g the cont<strong>in</strong>gency <strong>an</strong>d power relations beh<strong>in</strong>d so-called<br />

“objective” knowledge claims as <strong>an</strong> end <strong>in</strong> itself, as the Critical Theory often attempts with<br />

rhetorical <strong>an</strong>alysis, it is a materialist paradigm which seeks to underm<strong>in</strong>e not only oppressive<br />

systems but the very systems of thought which make this oppression possible. As Schiele notes:<br />

“...the Afrocentric paradigm endeavors to foster what Foucault (1977) calls the<br />

<strong>in</strong>surrection of subjugated knowledges. The Afrocentric paradigm is a form of knowledge<br />

<strong>in</strong>surrection <strong>in</strong> that it challenges <strong>in</strong>terpretations of people of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent that stem from<br />

groups who benefit from the oppression of people of Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>cestry <strong>an</strong>d advocates that<br />

these <strong>in</strong>terpretations emerge from the narratives of black people themselves. However,<br />

unlike some from the postmodernist camp (see, for example,Baum<strong>an</strong>, 1992; Lyotard, 1984;<br />

Seidm<strong>an</strong>, 1994), the Afrocentric paradigm does not view the affirmation of a subjugated<br />

group's narrative as <strong>an</strong> end <strong>in</strong> itself. The Afrocentric paradigm is materialist <strong>in</strong> that it<br />

endeavors to validate the narratives of people of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent not only for psychological<br />

(i.e., self-esteem) <strong>an</strong>d scientific (i.e., knowledge validation) reasons but also to ch<strong>an</strong>ge the<br />

political <strong>an</strong>d economic conditions faced by people of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent. Knowledge<br />

<strong>in</strong>surrection with<strong>in</strong> the Afrocentric perspective defies Eurocentric universalism <strong>an</strong>d strives<br />

to abolish the material conditions <strong>an</strong>d consequences of racial <strong>an</strong>d cultural oppression.<br />

Similar to those with<strong>in</strong> the r<strong>an</strong>ks of the Fr<strong>an</strong>kfurt School (see Habermas, 1971;<br />

Horkheimer <strong>an</strong>d Adorno 1994; Marcuse, 1964), the Afrocentric view of social work<br />

research, <strong>an</strong>d by extension social theory, merges social ch<strong>an</strong>ge activities with those of<br />

knowledge <strong>in</strong>quiry <strong>an</strong>d development.<br />

Unlike the proponents of "Critical Theory," the Afrocentric paradigm does not limit its<br />

social ch<strong>an</strong>ge activities to the elim<strong>in</strong>ation of a specific economic system with its<br />

accomp<strong>an</strong>y<strong>in</strong>g ideology, although this is import<strong>an</strong>t. Rather, the Afrocentric paradigm<br />

aspires to elim<strong>in</strong>ate the underly<strong>in</strong>g worldview that creates the need for such <strong>an</strong> exploitative<br />

system <strong>in</strong> the first place.<br />

In essence, Afrocentric social work research encourages hum<strong>an</strong>s to become more at one<br />

with the Creator <strong>an</strong>d the universe. This "oneness with nature <strong>an</strong>d God" cosmology is<br />

thought to br<strong>in</strong>g about respect <strong>an</strong>d appreciation for all aspects of nature—<strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g hum<strong>an</strong><br />

be<strong>in</strong>gs—both for the common aspects <strong>an</strong>d the different ones, <strong>an</strong>d is believed to preclude<br />

the exploitative behavior that accomp<strong>an</strong>ies oppression (Schiele, 1994). In this regard,<br />

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Afro-centric social work research generates knowledge to enh<strong>an</strong>ce the potential of people<br />

<strong>an</strong>d societies to behave morally <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong> ways congruent with the belief <strong>in</strong> the oneness of the<br />

universe <strong>an</strong>d hum<strong>an</strong>ity.” (Schiele, 2000).<br />

This is import<strong>an</strong>t to note, as the <strong>in</strong>tellectual <strong>in</strong>novations created by people of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent are<br />

too often seen as iterative or reflective of some previously established Europe<strong>an</strong> theorists or<br />

thought traditions, rather th<strong>an</strong> deserv<strong>in</strong>g respect as a wholly unique <strong>an</strong>d dist<strong>in</strong>ct contribution to<br />

research.<br />

This raises the critical po<strong>in</strong>t that research should not only be evaluated by its specific<br />

claims, but also through the ideological <strong>an</strong>d rhetorical justifications used to justify these claims.<br />

These claims have serious implications from the perspective of Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong><br />

paradigms, as they impact the underly<strong>in</strong>g thought systems readers take away from the research.<br />

From the st<strong>an</strong>dpo<strong>in</strong>t of Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> paradigms, this is essential, as it implicates the<br />

heuristic value of the study if the justifications beh<strong>in</strong>d the f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>gs underm<strong>in</strong>e the em<strong>an</strong>cipatory<br />

values of the recommendations. For example, <strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>alysis of drug policy might argue that addiction<br />

should be treated as a public health issue because Black communities are <strong>in</strong>capable of produc<strong>in</strong>g<br />

alternatives to the underground economy, <strong>an</strong>d thus decrim<strong>in</strong>aliz<strong>in</strong>g drugs should reflect a realistic<br />

approach to contemporary urb<strong>an</strong> poverty. This would be seen by m<strong>an</strong>y as positive, as it seeks to<br />

address the material suffer<strong>in</strong>g caused by hyper <strong>in</strong>carceration <strong>an</strong>d addiction. However, it would<br />

ignore that Black communities are, of course, not <strong>in</strong>capable of produc<strong>in</strong>g alternatives to the<br />

underground economy, but <strong>in</strong>stead politically starved of the resources needed to create these<br />

alternatives. This replicates the previously stated fallacy of tak<strong>in</strong>g exist<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>formation as<br />

“objectively” true without underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g the social, historical, <strong>an</strong>d structural conditions beh<strong>in</strong>d<br />

these “facts.” It also fails to accomplish the stated role of challeng<strong>in</strong>g the underly<strong>in</strong>g assumptive<br />

logic beh<strong>in</strong>d these systems of <strong>in</strong>equity, which, <strong>in</strong> this example, would be to focus on the underly<strong>in</strong>g<br />

conditions lead<strong>in</strong>g to addiction <strong>in</strong> under-resourced black communities <strong>an</strong>d to study the positive,<br />

productive capacities of <strong>in</strong>dividuals who use sell<strong>in</strong>g illegal drugs as a me<strong>an</strong>s of survival <strong>an</strong>d<br />

economic empowerment. Import<strong>an</strong>tly, this does not me<strong>an</strong> that <strong>an</strong>y of the negative social impacts<br />

of addiction or violence stemm<strong>in</strong>g from the drug trade is ignored. Rather it suggests that the<br />

research around drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization takes these issues <strong>in</strong>to account from the lens of us<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

history <strong>an</strong>d culture of the people impacted by these issues <strong>in</strong>to account both <strong>in</strong> terms of expla<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g<br />

these issues <strong>an</strong>d offer<strong>in</strong>g recommendations for how to address them.<br />

This example helps show how these paradigmatic considerations are not merely questions<br />

of fairness, but strong <strong>in</strong>fluences on the sorts of questions that researchers ask, the methods they<br />

use, <strong>an</strong>d the conclusion they come to. Us<strong>in</strong>g Akabr’s Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong> <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong>, this<br />

section could be seen as theoretical research <strong>an</strong>d deconstructive research at a meta-level, seek<strong>in</strong>g<br />

to <strong>an</strong>alyze m<strong>an</strong>y of the characteristics of the dom<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>t research paradigm, expose their limitations,<br />

present alternative research paradigms <strong>an</strong>d provide examples of how they may be applied. The<br />

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next section will seek to apply these theoretical <strong>an</strong>d deconstructive research methodologies to the<br />

specifics of the drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization literature.<br />

Part II. Literature Review: <strong>Drug</strong> <strong>Decrim<strong>in</strong>alization</strong> Analysed through <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong><br />

<strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong><br />

Remember<strong>in</strong>g what we have established as a frame of <strong>an</strong>alysis, it is reasonable to assume<br />

that deconstructive research c<strong>an</strong> be applied specifically to the literature on drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization.<br />

In keep<strong>in</strong>g with the previously established notion of fundamentally challeng<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

ideological suppositions beh<strong>in</strong>d policy <strong>an</strong>alysis, it is essential to start a study of drug<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization by <strong>an</strong>alyz<strong>in</strong>g how research comes to expla<strong>in</strong> <strong>an</strong>d underst<strong>an</strong>d the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s.<br />

As previously discussed, there is a common expl<strong>an</strong>ation of the harms of the War On <strong>Drug</strong>s,<br />

which is often used to justify drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. Underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g the cultural biases embedded<br />

<strong>in</strong> these expl<strong>an</strong>ations, the limitations of how these narratives are produced is essential to f<strong>in</strong>d where<br />

<strong>an</strong> em<strong>an</strong>cipatory research project could add new <strong>an</strong>d productive <strong>in</strong>sights to the literature.<br />

A Synopsis of the “St<strong>an</strong>dard model” on expla<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g the harm of the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s is<br />

reflected <strong>in</strong> the jo<strong>in</strong>t Hum<strong>an</strong> Rights Watch Report entitled “Every 25 Seconds”:<br />

“Every 25 seconds <strong>in</strong> the United States, someone is arrested for the simple act of<br />

possess<strong>in</strong>g drugs for their personal use, just as Neal <strong>an</strong>d Nicole were. Around the country,<br />

police make more arrests for drug possession th<strong>an</strong> for <strong>an</strong>y other crime.<br />

And despite officials’ claims that drug laws are me<strong>an</strong>t to curb drug sales, four times as<br />

m<strong>an</strong>y people are arrested for possess<strong>in</strong>g drugs as are arrested for sell<strong>in</strong>g them.<br />

As a result of these arrests, on <strong>an</strong>y given day at least 137,000 men <strong>an</strong>d women are beh<strong>in</strong>d<br />

bars <strong>in</strong> the United States for drug possession, some 48,000 of them <strong>in</strong> state prisons <strong>an</strong>d<br />

89,000 <strong>in</strong> jails, most of the latter <strong>in</strong> pretrial detention. Each day, tens of thous<strong>an</strong>ds more<br />

are convicted, cycle through jails <strong>an</strong>d prisons, <strong>an</strong>d spend extended periods on probation<br />

<strong>an</strong>d parole, often burdened with crippl<strong>in</strong>g debt from court-imposed f<strong>in</strong>es <strong>an</strong>d fees. Their<br />

crim<strong>in</strong>al records lock them out of jobs, hous<strong>in</strong>g, education, welfare assist<strong>an</strong>ce, vot<strong>in</strong>g, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

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much more, <strong>an</strong>d subject them to discrim<strong>in</strong>ation <strong>an</strong>d stigma. The cost to them <strong>an</strong>d to their<br />

families <strong>an</strong>d communities, as well as to the taxpayer, is devastat<strong>in</strong>g. Those impacted are<br />

disproportionately communities of color <strong>an</strong>d the poor.” (Hum<strong>an</strong> Rights Watch, 2016).<br />

Here we c<strong>an</strong> use the f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>gs of our theoretical research to underst<strong>an</strong>d the logic beh<strong>in</strong>d why the<br />

writers of this report believe this fram<strong>in</strong>g would be persuasive to its audience. First, they claim<br />

that our enforcement system is excessive, with <strong>an</strong> extreme focus on arrest <strong>an</strong>d conviction (every<br />

25 seconds). This appeals to the reader's sense of rationality <strong>an</strong>d logic: even if drugs were a<br />

problem, isn’t the idea of someone be<strong>in</strong>g arrested every 25 seconds too much? There is a def<strong>in</strong>ite<br />

appeal to the reader's sense of be<strong>in</strong>g able to evaluate risks rationally <strong>an</strong>d judge the d<strong>an</strong>gers of drug<br />

use are outweighed by the d<strong>an</strong>gers of hyper-<strong>in</strong>carceration. It appeals to a reader who might view<br />

qu<strong>an</strong>tification as a critical part of the persuasive argument <strong>an</strong>d dedicates subst<strong>an</strong>tial space to<br />

provid<strong>in</strong>g the reader with the statistics on <strong>in</strong>carceration. Similarly, why hyper <strong>in</strong>carceration is seen<br />

as wrong is framed through the lens of <strong>in</strong>dividual liberty. While harms to the community are<br />

mentioned, the primary focus is on the harm to the <strong>in</strong>dividual, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g debt <strong>an</strong>d denial of critical<br />

resources. This c<strong>an</strong> be read as attempt<strong>in</strong>g to establish empathy with the reader, ask<strong>in</strong>g them to<br />

imag<strong>in</strong>e be<strong>in</strong>g cut off from all these essential services <strong>an</strong>d subject<strong>in</strong>g them to discrim<strong>in</strong>ation <strong>an</strong>d<br />

stigma. F<strong>in</strong>ally, the reader is told this hyper-<strong>in</strong>carceration does not work <strong>an</strong>d is even caus<strong>in</strong>g harm<br />

to the reader by not deterr<strong>in</strong>g drug sales <strong>an</strong>d wast<strong>in</strong>g valuable tax money. The reader is thus tacitly<br />

posited as a taxpayer who wonders why their resources are spent on a policy that clearly does not<br />

work <strong>an</strong>d causes so much harm.<br />

Now that we have <strong>an</strong>alyzed some of the underly<strong>in</strong>g assumptions beh<strong>in</strong>d the “st<strong>an</strong>dard<br />

model” of <strong>in</strong>terpret<strong>in</strong>g the harm of the War On <strong>Drug</strong>s, we c<strong>an</strong> beg<strong>in</strong> to apply a critical lens to this<br />

argument. First, we c<strong>an</strong> question the focus on the <strong>in</strong>dividual. As previously expressed <strong>in</strong> the<br />

discussion of the dist<strong>in</strong>ction between the <strong>in</strong>dividual rational “cogito” subject versus the collective<br />

“ubuntu” subject of Afric<strong>an</strong> centered thought, focus<strong>in</strong>g on the personal impacts of the War On<br />

<strong>Drug</strong>s risks obscur<strong>in</strong>g its collective implications. Consequently, a larger, historical underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g<br />

of the War On <strong>Drug</strong>s stems from a desire to control specific racialized populations. Todd Clear <strong>in</strong><br />

book Imprison<strong>in</strong>g Community denotes how targeted hyper-<strong>in</strong>carceration, primarily driven by the<br />

War on <strong>Drug</strong>s, has underm<strong>in</strong>ed the capacity of communities to develop civil society <strong>in</strong>stitutions<br />

that could create me<strong>an</strong><strong>in</strong>gful alternatives to the street economy. This creates conditions for more<br />

crime, thus more polic<strong>in</strong>g, further underm<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g community civil society <strong>in</strong>stitutions. Hyper<strong>in</strong>carceration<br />

doesn't just hurt people; it locks entire communities <strong>in</strong>to cycles of violence which<br />

secure <strong>in</strong> perpetual violence, a perspective which risks be<strong>in</strong>g obscured with a focus on <strong>in</strong>dividual<br />

liberty. Moreover, the specific form of liberty used <strong>in</strong> the st<strong>an</strong>dard narrative reflects a “negative”<br />

view of freedom. Negative freedom, freedom from government constra<strong>in</strong>t of <strong>in</strong>dividual behavior,<br />

is often contrasted with a “positive” view of liberty, as <strong>in</strong> establish<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong> affirmative right for<br />

<strong>in</strong>dividuals <strong>an</strong>d communities to have the resources they need to flourish <strong>an</strong>d the autonomy to<br />

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decide how to use them for themselves. While the Hum<strong>an</strong> Rights Watch would seem to affirm a<br />

more positive view of freedom discuss<strong>in</strong>g the denial of critical social services, it does not establish<br />

a positive right to be free from hunger, poverty, or miseducation. It merely suggests <strong>in</strong>clusion <strong>in</strong>to<br />

exist<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>stitutions which themselves are woefully <strong>in</strong>adequate. This is a critical bit of ideological<br />

work, where even the ostensibly radical position of decrim<strong>in</strong>aliz<strong>in</strong>g drugs ultimately affirms the<br />

right of <strong>in</strong>dividuals to not have drug use exclude them from the current political order. But it fails<br />

to <strong>in</strong>herently seek to challenge the exist<strong>in</strong>g order. It furthers <strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>ability to create conditions of<br />

positive freedom, hum<strong>an</strong> rights, <strong>an</strong>d self-determ<strong>in</strong>ation for oppressed <strong>in</strong>dividuals <strong>an</strong>d<br />

communities.<br />

F<strong>in</strong>ally, the core assumption beh<strong>in</strong>d the narrative on the harm of the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s assumes<br />

that the reader will be able to use a rational, objective critique of the excesses of hyper <strong>in</strong>carceration<br />

to make political ch<strong>an</strong>ge. This implies that the core assumptions guid<strong>in</strong>g the construction of the<br />

contemporary War on <strong>Drug</strong>s are a rational desire to address the perceived d<strong>an</strong>gers of drug use,<br />

which has simply spiraled out of control due to the ignor<strong>an</strong>ce of voters <strong>an</strong>d lawmakers. Scholars<br />

of the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s challenge this notion, expla<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g that it is not merely that the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s<br />

was <strong>in</strong>augurated <strong>an</strong>d supported by racist assumptions, but rather that drugs serve a critical social<br />

function at the core of affirm<strong>in</strong>g the very civilization project of the West. In a Western society<br />

which prioritizes rational as the condition of possibility for the community, scholars have argued<br />

that the fear of drug <strong>in</strong>toxication reflects a concern of the “rational” west revert<strong>in</strong>g society to a<br />

violent “state of nature,” with irrational, racialized “others'' threaten<strong>in</strong>g the very fabric of civilized<br />

society. This concept fundamentally challenges much of the assumptive logic of the research on<br />

the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s <strong>an</strong>d drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. It will be foundational <strong>in</strong> sett<strong>in</strong>g racism <strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>tiblackness<br />

at the core of this paper’s subsequent f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g. Birkbeck School of Law professor Kojo<br />

Karam is quoted at length <strong>in</strong> attempt<strong>in</strong>g to provide context for this argument:<br />

“To appreciate the social function of the concept of drugs helps us to underst<strong>an</strong>d the moral<br />

p<strong>an</strong>ic that they engender <strong>an</strong>d why their prohibition often takes the form of re<strong>in</strong>forc<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

old colour l<strong>in</strong>e now ostensibly discredited with<strong>in</strong> liberal political discourse. <strong>Drug</strong>s are not<br />

seen as mere pl<strong>an</strong>t life <strong>in</strong> the m<strong>an</strong>ner that they appear <strong>in</strong> nature, nor are they seen as<br />

commodities, as natural resources to be exploited for capitalist ga<strong>in</strong>. <strong>Drug</strong>s are <strong>in</strong>stead<br />

discursively produced as ‘tr<strong>an</strong>sgressive subst<strong>an</strong>ces’, elements of the natural world that c<strong>an</strong><br />

call upon the negation of the characteristics that def<strong>in</strong>e ‘hum<strong>an</strong>ity’. As Desmond<br />

M<strong>an</strong>derson argues, the fear of drugs is not merely the fear of the subst<strong>an</strong>ces themselves;<br />

rather, ‘what lies beneath is undoubtedly a fear of contam<strong>in</strong>ation’, a fear of the failed state<br />

of hum<strong>an</strong>ity they are commonly read as br<strong>in</strong>g<strong>in</strong>g about. <strong>Drug</strong>s are taken to facilitate<br />

movement between different states of be<strong>in</strong>g, tr<strong>an</strong>sferr<strong>in</strong>g consumers from the realm of the<br />

hum<strong>an</strong> to the non- hum<strong>an</strong>. The contemporary conceptualization of drugs takes much from<br />

the classical notion of pharmakon, which Derrida recovers to describe the discursive<br />

process for how difference is produced. The pharmakon facilitates ‘the movement <strong>an</strong>d the<br />

play … (soul/body, good/evil, <strong>in</strong>side/outside, memory/forgetfulness, speech/writ<strong>in</strong>g, etc.)’<br />

threaten<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>y notion of ‘<strong>in</strong>ternal purity <strong>an</strong>d security’ with<strong>in</strong> a social order. Furthermore,<br />

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unlike the n<strong>in</strong>eteenth-century notion of scientific racism, drugs are not presumed to impact<br />

only those who are afflicted; a key element to grasp <strong>in</strong> order to appreciate the fear that<br />

underwrites drug prohibition is to underst<strong>an</strong>d that prohibitionists see a mimetic or<br />

contagious power with<strong>in</strong> drugs. The fear that drugs might consume the subject who<br />

themselves sought to consume the drug is not only a fear of the damage drugs might cause<br />

to that specific consumer but that this damage will spread amongst the other members of<br />

the community. The fear of these drugs is that they threaten the stability of the social order<br />

as a whole, function<strong>in</strong>g as what St<strong>an</strong>ley Cohen termed as the societal folk-devil, spread<strong>in</strong>g<br />

the addiction amongst the whole community. David Courtwright states that ‘absent the<br />

idea of addiction, the whole system of controll<strong>in</strong>g drug supply that has developed over the<br />

last two centuries would make little moral or practical sense.’ I would add to this that <strong>an</strong><br />

underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of the fear that drug addiction causes, <strong>an</strong>d import<strong>an</strong>tly spreads, the<br />

denigration of <strong>an</strong> idealized figure of the hum<strong>an</strong> is necessary to underst<strong>an</strong>d why the drug<br />

laws have persisted despite the devastation they have brought upon already oppressed<br />

peoples. Early drug prohibition campaigns <strong>in</strong> the US at the start of the twentieth century<br />

found much of their success through equat<strong>in</strong>g particular drugs with particular groups of<br />

racial others – opium with Ch<strong>in</strong>ese labourers, mariju<strong>an</strong>a with Mexic<strong>an</strong> migr<strong>an</strong>ts, etc. The<br />

US’s earliest recorded drug law, the 1875 City Ord<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>ce Aga<strong>in</strong>st Opium Dens passed <strong>in</strong><br />

S<strong>an</strong> Fr<strong>an</strong>cisco, was a law produced on ‘strictly ethnic grounds’, aimed aga<strong>in</strong>st ‘Ch<strong>in</strong>ese<br />

immigr<strong>an</strong>ts’ practice of smok<strong>in</strong>g opium’ <strong>an</strong>d fuelled by a popular media obsessed with<br />

‘images of “yellow fiends” debauch<strong>in</strong>g white women <strong>an</strong>d the youth of the nation’.<br />

Particularly relev<strong>an</strong>t is the way <strong>in</strong> which the threat of these drugs was seen as not merely<br />

conta<strong>in</strong>ed to the communities of the racial others, the real d<strong>an</strong>ger was how they could spill<br />

out <strong>in</strong>to White communities. In short, drugs as ‘tr<strong>an</strong>sgressive subst<strong>an</strong>ces’ are read as<br />

hav<strong>in</strong>g the power to tr<strong>an</strong>sform even the most rational, autonomous, enlightened <strong>an</strong>d<br />

sovereign Europe<strong>an</strong> ‘m<strong>an</strong>’ <strong>in</strong>to the lazy, violent, depraved figure of the sub-hum<strong>an</strong>. The<br />

correlative response to this fear is the aim of expell<strong>in</strong>g these ‘drugs’ from the collective<br />

social order, along with those who might be addicted or particularly susceptible to <strong>an</strong><br />

addiction to these subst<strong>an</strong>ces. The metaphysical quality read <strong>in</strong>to drugs is easily<br />

tr<strong>an</strong>sferred <strong>in</strong>to the very material bodies of those already traditionally constructed as be<strong>in</strong>g<br />

a threat to the boundaries of hum<strong>an</strong>ity: racially othered populations.<br />

Sociologist <strong>an</strong>d cultural theorist Je<strong>an</strong> Baudrillard adds a further element to this argument<br />

with his own read<strong>in</strong>g of how <strong>in</strong>debted the fear of ‘drugs’ is to a Weberi<strong>an</strong> conception of<br />

the economic <strong>an</strong>d social good <strong>in</strong> western society. For Baudrillard, the West arrogates onto<br />

itself a specific capacity for delayed gratification <strong>an</strong>d it is this capacity taken to underlie<br />

presumptions of civilization. The condemnation of drugs therefore functions as a st<strong>an</strong>d-<strong>in</strong><br />

for the fear of the threat of the loss of that capacity for delayed gratification, the defeat of<br />

reason <strong>an</strong>d the will, at the h<strong>an</strong>d of the appetite <strong>in</strong> Aristoteli<strong>an</strong> terms. Baudrillard argues<br />

that ‘traces of this long-st<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g condemnation l<strong>in</strong>ger on <strong>in</strong> our own vision of modern<br />

drugs <strong>an</strong>d of the occult power they derive from their <strong>an</strong>cient symbolic virtues.’ As opposed<br />

to the ‘evil’ of drug addiction resid<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> the drug itself <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>fect<strong>in</strong>g western modernity<br />

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from the outside, Baudrillard shows us how the ‘evil’ is <strong>in</strong>stead a consequence of the very<br />

logic of the system, of the excessive logic <strong>an</strong>d rationality of a system – <strong>in</strong> this case society<br />

<strong>in</strong> the Industrialized countries – which, hav<strong>in</strong>g reached a certa<strong>in</strong> level of saturation,<br />

secretes <strong>an</strong>tibodies which express its <strong>in</strong>ternal diseases, its str<strong>an</strong>ge malfunctions, its<br />

unforeseeable <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>curable breakdowns.<br />

With<strong>in</strong> the discourse of Europe<strong>an</strong> modernity, where the social relations between subjects<br />

is presumed to be fully secularized <strong>an</strong>d consequently solely mediated through mutual<br />

recognition of each other’s hum<strong>an</strong>ity, the fear has been that ‘drug use threatens the social<br />

bond’ <strong>an</strong>d summons up the spectre of the sub-hum<strong>an</strong> that persists with<strong>in</strong>.” (Karam, 2019).<br />

The implications of this theory c<strong>an</strong>not be overstated. If Karam is correct, then m<strong>an</strong>y <strong>in</strong> society<br />

don’t see <strong>in</strong>carceration of drug users as a waste of tax revenue, but rather as productive <strong>in</strong>vestment<br />

<strong>in</strong> societal stability. Exclud<strong>in</strong>g the drug user from the realm of the rational precludes <strong>an</strong>alysis of<br />

“evidence-based” drug treatment from be<strong>in</strong>g seen as a productive alternative to <strong>in</strong>carceration;<br />

addicts are not seen as sensible <strong>in</strong>dividuals capable of tak<strong>in</strong>g adv<strong>an</strong>tage of new services, but their<br />

addiction itself is seen as exclud<strong>in</strong>g them from the community of the rational. Ironically, this<br />

obsession with rationality is <strong>in</strong> itself irrational, suffused with racialized assumption around the<br />

Black/Brown others fundamental irrationality be<strong>in</strong>g expressed through <strong>in</strong>toxication. The racial<br />

disparities of the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s are not a “bug” <strong>in</strong> the crim<strong>in</strong>al legal system, they very much are a<br />

feature, where Black <strong>an</strong>d Brown drug users are seen as need<strong>in</strong>g to be conta<strong>in</strong>ed, lest their devi<strong>an</strong>t<br />

cultural traits spread to the broader white community.<br />

Some would counter that the recent turn <strong>in</strong> research toward more compassionate views of<br />

drug users refutes Karam’s <strong>an</strong>alysis. Here it is essential to remember Schiele’s discussions around<br />

the import<strong>an</strong>ce of th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> diunital, rather th<strong>an</strong> dichotomous patterns. Indeed, m<strong>an</strong>y have<br />

viewed the <strong>in</strong>creas<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>terest <strong>in</strong> “public health” approaches to addictions as explicitly reflective<br />

of a racialized trend <strong>in</strong> addiction treatment, with the rise of opioid addiction <strong>in</strong> white communities<br />

be<strong>in</strong>g seen as the impetus for this shift. Netherl<strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>d H<strong>an</strong>sen argue it is <strong>an</strong> explicitly racialized<br />

fear of “wasted whiteness” with the contagion of addiction impugn<strong>in</strong>g white subjects' ability to<br />

productive neoliberal citizens as responsible for this shift. That explicitly notes a rom<strong>an</strong>ticized<br />

view of Whites <strong>in</strong> Appalachi<strong>an</strong> <strong>Maryl<strong>an</strong>d</strong> as worthy of compassion because of their “hard lives of<br />

m<strong>an</strong>ual labor.” The ideological justification beh<strong>in</strong>d this shift makes their <strong>an</strong>alysis particularly<br />

crucial for this project, as they write:<br />

“...Alcoff, for <strong>in</strong>st<strong>an</strong>ce, argues that “White supremacy is itself <strong>in</strong>coherent <strong>an</strong>d c<strong>an</strong> m<strong>an</strong>ifest<br />

itself quite differently depend<strong>in</strong>g on historical periods <strong>an</strong>d social groups” (2015: 15).<br />

Representations of drugs <strong>an</strong>d the people who use them are <strong>in</strong>fluenced by the complex<br />

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<strong>in</strong>tersections of class- <strong>an</strong>d race-based disadv<strong>an</strong>tage (Pruitt 2015). White drug users who<br />

are disparaged appear l<strong>in</strong>ked primarily to rural poverty. Abuse of prescription opioids first<br />

surfaced <strong>in</strong> rural Ma<strong>in</strong>e, <strong>Maryl<strong>an</strong>d</strong>, <strong>an</strong>d then Appalachia among the rural poor, likely<br />

because the isolation made prescription opioids more accessible th<strong>an</strong> street drugs <strong>an</strong>d<br />

because of a high prevalence of pa<strong>in</strong> syndromes related, <strong>in</strong> part, to “hard lives of m<strong>an</strong>ual<br />

labor” (Inciardi <strong>an</strong>d Cicero 2009: 106; Tunnell 2004). Known as “hillbilly hero<strong>in</strong>,” the<br />

use of oxycont<strong>in</strong> <strong>in</strong> rural Appalachia was l<strong>in</strong>ked with crime by local law enforcement <strong>an</strong>d<br />

politici<strong>an</strong>s despite the fact that crime rates did not <strong>in</strong>crease (Tunnell 2004, 2005). Several<br />

studies of methamphetam<strong>in</strong>e have rooted the construction of that drug as white <strong>in</strong> the<br />

grow<strong>in</strong>g economic <strong>an</strong>d class <strong>in</strong>securities of rural whites. Garriott (2011, 2013) argues that<br />

meth production <strong>an</strong>d use grew <strong>in</strong> rural communities for a number of reasons, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

need to supplement <strong>in</strong>come <strong>in</strong> areas where jobs are scarce <strong>an</strong>d low wage <strong>an</strong>d to help<br />

workers <strong>in</strong> monotonous, repetitive jobs (like the poultry <strong>in</strong>dustry) perform better. Even<br />

with<strong>in</strong> class, there are import<strong>an</strong>t dist<strong>in</strong>ctions to be made between rural, suburb<strong>an</strong>, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

urb<strong>an</strong> Whites (Pruitt 2011). Beori <strong>an</strong>d colleagues, <strong>in</strong> their study of suburb<strong>an</strong> meth users,<br />

found that m<strong>an</strong>y had been <strong>in</strong>troduced to meth as a me<strong>an</strong>s of enh<strong>an</strong>c<strong>in</strong>g their perform<strong>an</strong>ce<br />

<strong>an</strong>d productivity at work <strong>an</strong>d “ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g a suburb<strong>an</strong> lifestyle (2009: 14). Adderall, a<br />

stimul<strong>an</strong>t very similar to methamphetam<strong>in</strong>e, is rout<strong>in</strong>ely used by students to perform better<br />

on tests with little stigma attached to its use (H<strong>an</strong>son et al 2013)..<br />

The stories of the deaths of white people are considered tragic <strong>in</strong> part because of the<br />

underly<strong>in</strong>g assumption of promise <strong>an</strong>d privilege lost. If affluence is a constitutive element<br />

of whiteness (Pruitt 2015), then the loss of that affluence (whether realized or aspirational)<br />

is tragic. Because of drugs, people normally expected to be “productive” c<strong>an</strong>not fulfill<br />

obligations <strong>an</strong>d expectations (a neoliberal) society has for them. As L<strong>an</strong>e DeGregory of<br />

the Tampa Bay Times notes, with the <strong>in</strong>creas<strong>in</strong>g opioid crisis <strong>in</strong> white communities: “Hard<br />

workers c<strong>an</strong> no longer hold jobs. Smart students drop out. Good moms neglect their kids,<br />

dra<strong>in</strong> their b<strong>an</strong>k accounts, steal from family members (2011).” Part of the implied tragedy<br />

is that of squ<strong>an</strong>dered whiteness <strong>an</strong>d a system of adv<strong>an</strong>tages to which black <strong>an</strong>d Lat<strong>in</strong>o<br />

people have limited access. The ways that this systemic adv<strong>an</strong>tage is built on racial<br />

<strong>in</strong>equality goes unflagged. Nor do these accounts of white opioid use mention the crim<strong>in</strong>al<br />

justice system that disproportionately discipl<strong>in</strong>es blacks <strong>an</strong>d Lat<strong>in</strong>os.<br />

In addition to efforts to differentiate <strong>an</strong>d make exceptional white opioid use by treat<strong>in</strong>g it<br />

as novel <strong>an</strong>d expla<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g its causes <strong>in</strong> ways that hum<strong>an</strong>ize the white drug user, whiteness is<br />

also ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong>ed by shor<strong>in</strong>g up the geographic boundaries between white <strong>an</strong>d black or<br />

Lat<strong>in</strong>o communities. Whiteness is always be<strong>in</strong>g re<strong>in</strong>terpreted <strong>an</strong>d subject to <strong>in</strong>ternal<br />

contestation (Alcoff 2015). Right now whiteness is under particular threat as<br />

demographers <strong>an</strong>d the U.S. census bureau are predict<strong>in</strong>g that between 2042 <strong>an</strong>d 2050<br />

whites will no longer be a majority <strong>in</strong> the U.S. (Alcoff 2015). In the face of such a “threat”<br />

<strong>an</strong>d the <strong>in</strong>creas<strong>in</strong>g porosity of the boundaries between racial groups, the ma<strong>in</strong>ten<strong>an</strong>ce of<br />

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geographic boundaries between Black <strong>an</strong>d white becomes ever more imperative for those<br />

wish<strong>in</strong>g to ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong> white racial dom<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>ce.<br />

This geographic separation is evident <strong>in</strong> reports of <strong>in</strong>creases <strong>in</strong> suburb<strong>an</strong> hero<strong>in</strong> use as a<br />

consequence of tightened restrictions on opioid prescrib<strong>in</strong>g lead<strong>in</strong>g to dw<strong>in</strong>dl<strong>in</strong>g<br />

prescription opioid supplies (NIDA, 2014). As one paper from Fargo put it: “That's a<br />

direct conduit... They were us<strong>in</strong>g diverted pa<strong>in</strong> meds, then the price for too high. Some<br />

switched to hero<strong>in</strong> (Nowatzki <strong>an</strong>d Benshoof 2011).” In our <strong>an</strong>alysis, we found that the<br />

tr<strong>an</strong>sition from prescription drugs to hero<strong>in</strong> is often couched <strong>in</strong> a theme of contagion – that<br />

is, the tr<strong>an</strong>sition from prescription pills to hero<strong>in</strong> is lead<strong>in</strong>g to a mix<strong>in</strong>g of suburb<strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>d<br />

urb<strong>an</strong> drugs <strong>an</strong>d drug users. For example, a Chicago Daily Herald article reported:<br />

“Suburb<strong>an</strong> teens who fall <strong>in</strong>to the trap of hero<strong>in</strong> use often drive to West Side...to buy the<br />

drug” (Daily Herald 2001).<br />

White people search<strong>in</strong>g for drugs <strong>in</strong> urb<strong>an</strong> areas are not only cross<strong>in</strong>g geographic<br />

boundaries, they are cross<strong>in</strong>g boundaries that lead them from the imag<strong>in</strong>ed safety of the<br />

suburb<strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>d rural white community <strong>an</strong>d expos<strong>in</strong>g themselves to the violence that<br />

supposedly characterizes the <strong>in</strong>ner city drug markets. As Elijah Anderson po<strong>in</strong>ts out, white<br />

<strong>an</strong>d black spaces are perceived as dist<strong>in</strong>ctive, <strong>an</strong>d black spaces are seen as d<strong>an</strong>gerous by<br />

m<strong>an</strong>y whites: “[f]or the larger society, from the nightly news <strong>an</strong>d media reports of ramp<strong>an</strong>t<br />

black-on-black crime ... images of the black ghetto loom large” (2015: p.13). In addition,<br />

the contagion runs both ways. Just as white people are portrayed as seek<strong>in</strong>g drugs <strong>in</strong> urb<strong>an</strong><br />

areas, so too drug dealers from urb<strong>an</strong> areas are portrayed as <strong>in</strong>filtrat<strong>in</strong>g white<br />

communities. As this account from Madison, Wiscons<strong>in</strong> expla<strong>in</strong>s:<br />

[T]he drug is be<strong>in</strong>g tr<strong>an</strong>sported by street g<strong>an</strong>gs <strong>an</strong>d drug traffick<strong>in</strong>g<br />

org<strong>an</strong>izations along the <strong>in</strong>terstate system from Chicago. Communities from<br />

the state l<strong>in</strong>e to the Fox River valley, <strong>an</strong>d through the east side of the state<br />

from Milwaukee on south, have been <strong>in</strong>undated with the drug [Elbow 2011]<br />

The problem be<strong>in</strong>g described here is the breakdown of the segregation between white,<br />

supposedly drug-free, non-violent communities <strong>an</strong>d black <strong>an</strong>d Lat<strong>in</strong>o supposedly drugfilled,<br />

violent communities. This threat of miscegenation logically calls for re<strong>in</strong>forcement<br />

of the social-geographic boundaries between white <strong>an</strong>d black or brown neighborhoods,<br />

symbolically undergird<strong>in</strong>g disparate policy responses.” (Netherl<strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>d H<strong>an</strong>sen, 2016).<br />

This <strong>an</strong>alysis contextualizes the quote explicitly from the Hum<strong>an</strong> Rights Watch around the tragedy<br />

of the War on <strong>Drug</strong> be<strong>in</strong>g seen <strong>in</strong> the exclusion from social services, which were never sufficient<br />

for racialized populations. But for White America, this exclusion marks <strong>an</strong> explicit “squ<strong>an</strong>der<strong>in</strong>g”<br />

of “whiteness.” Moreover, their <strong>an</strong>alysis of the racialization of the concept of “contagion”<br />

implicates public health methodologies as themselves reflect<strong>in</strong>g racialized logics of “conta<strong>in</strong>ment”<br />

<strong>in</strong> service of “racial dom<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>ce” <strong>an</strong>d reflective of racial <strong>an</strong>xieties around miscegenation. This is<br />

import<strong>an</strong>t for researchers, as even research projects which use a public health frame for addiction<br />

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<strong>in</strong> service of hum<strong>an</strong>ism <strong>an</strong>d “good science” risk be<strong>in</strong>g redeployed by those seek<strong>in</strong>g to protect<br />

whiteness from the racialized “fall from whiteness” that is addiction.<br />

The <strong>an</strong>alysis of Karam, Neatherl<strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>d H<strong>an</strong>sen reflects much of what has previously been<br />

stated around the import<strong>an</strong>ce of challeng<strong>in</strong>g eurocentric norms around how to evaluate data <strong>an</strong>d<br />

pursue research. His <strong>an</strong>alysis of the fear of <strong>in</strong>toxication as reflective of a fear of spiritual<br />

“possession” validates Schiele <strong>an</strong>d Akbar’s <strong>in</strong>terpretation of the import<strong>an</strong>ce of <strong>an</strong> underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g<br />

of cultural psychology <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>corporat<strong>in</strong>g “spirituality” <strong>in</strong>to <strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>alysis of law <strong>an</strong>d so-called<br />

“objective” research. It also reflects the necessity of view<strong>in</strong>g culture as a real, material force that<br />

must be taken <strong>in</strong>to account <strong>in</strong> order to underst<strong>an</strong>d the policy. At the same time, rationality <strong>an</strong>d<br />

critical th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g may be universal, the idea that a rational <strong>in</strong>dividual capable of delay<strong>in</strong>g<br />

gratification <strong>an</strong>d hold<strong>in</strong>g onto their rational objective faculties is so essential to this society’s view<br />

of safety. Those who are deemed to not reflect these ideas deserve violent exclusion from society.<br />

Additionally, social control is a characteristic specific to Western cultures under modern<br />

imperialism <strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>ti-Black violence, <strong>an</strong>d this must be taken <strong>in</strong>to account <strong>in</strong> order to underst<strong>an</strong>d<br />

the evolution of drug policy. F<strong>in</strong>ally, it challenges the positivistic <strong>an</strong>d progressive notions that<br />

underlie m<strong>an</strong>y assumptions beh<strong>in</strong>d research <strong>an</strong>d the scientific method. Rather th<strong>an</strong> research almost<br />

axiomatically be<strong>in</strong>g better by apply<strong>in</strong>g the scientific method to problems, research risks becom<strong>in</strong>g<br />

a tool that furthers the cultural project of polic<strong>in</strong>g boundaries of the rational <strong>an</strong>d irrational.<br />

<strong>Research</strong>ers position themselves as exemplars of rationality <strong>an</strong>d relegate those who disagree with<br />

them as absurd “others.” Thus, research should be pursued with appropriate levels of humility <strong>an</strong>d<br />

care.<br />

This <strong>an</strong>alysis allows us to return to the “st<strong>an</strong>dard model” drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization argument<br />

<strong>an</strong>d further <strong>in</strong>terrogate its assumptions, now with a specific focus on the “decrim<strong>in</strong>alization”<br />

portion of the argument. <strong>Decrim<strong>in</strong>alization</strong> is seen as essential to control d<strong>an</strong>gerous diseases, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

presents Portugal’s model as <strong>an</strong> alternative which creates social benefits for everyone, even the<br />

police. Domolawski writes:<br />

“Respond<strong>in</strong>g to drug use <strong>an</strong>d possession with the tools of law enforcement me<strong>an</strong>s that<br />

public health suffers. <strong>Drug</strong> dependencies largely go untreated; <strong>in</strong>side most prisons there<br />

is no access to needle exch<strong>an</strong>ge, opiate substitution or other treatments. HIV <strong>an</strong>d Hepatitis<br />

C spread easily. Large numbers of <strong>in</strong>mates take up drug use <strong>in</strong> prison, <strong>an</strong>d m<strong>an</strong>y overdose<br />

shortly after release. Prison is simply not the <strong>an</strong>swer to drug use <strong>an</strong>d m<strong>in</strong>or drug-related<br />

offenses. We need to f<strong>in</strong>d a better, more hum<strong>an</strong>e response.<br />

The basis for this response c<strong>an</strong> be found <strong>in</strong> a grow<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>ternational movement led<br />

by scientists, health practitioners, drug users, policymakers, <strong>an</strong>d law enforcement officials<br />

who are committed to effective, endur<strong>in</strong>g, <strong>an</strong>d hum<strong>an</strong>e solutions to the challenges of drug<br />

use. The Global Commission on <strong>Drug</strong> Policy, whose members <strong>in</strong>clude four past presidents,<br />

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a former UN Secretary General, <strong>an</strong>d a Nobel Laureate, launched a report <strong>in</strong> June 2011<br />

that condemns the war on drugs <strong>an</strong>d calls for governments to seriously consider<br />

alternatives such as decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. The L<strong>an</strong>cet, a renowned British medical journal<br />

published a special issue <strong>in</strong> July 2010 to address the problem of HIV among drug users.<br />

The 2010 Vienna Declaration, signed by the heads of UNAIDS <strong>an</strong>d the Global Fund to<br />

Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, <strong>an</strong>d Malaria, bears 20,000 signatures <strong>in</strong> support of drug<br />

policies that are rooted <strong>in</strong> science. A global campaign led by AVAAZ—End the War on<br />

<strong>Drug</strong>s—gathered over 600,000 signatures.”<br />

Surpris<strong>in</strong>gly, Portugal—a small country known for its conservative values, strong<br />

Catholic tradition, <strong>an</strong>d recent emergence as a democracy—has become <strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>ternational<br />

model for drug policy reform. In a dramatic departure from the norm, Portugal<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alized drug possession <strong>in</strong> 2000. By mov<strong>in</strong>g the matter of personal possession<br />

entirely out of the realm of law enforcement <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>to that of public health, Portugal has<br />

given the world a powerful example of how a national drug policy c<strong>an</strong> work to everyone’s<br />

benefit. In the past decade, Portugal has seen a signific<strong>an</strong>t drop <strong>in</strong> new HIV <strong>in</strong>fections <strong>an</strong>d<br />

drug-related deaths.<br />

Instead of l<strong>an</strong>guish<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> prison cells, drug dependent <strong>in</strong>dividuals <strong>in</strong> Portugal now receive<br />

effective treatment <strong>an</strong>d compassionate programs that <strong>in</strong>tegrate them back <strong>in</strong>to society.<br />

Even law enforcement has benefited, as police officers are now free to focus on <strong>in</strong>tercept<strong>in</strong>g<br />

large-scale traffick<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>d uncover<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>ternational networks of smugglers. As a result,<br />

public safety has <strong>in</strong>creased.” (Domosławski, 2011).<br />

With <strong>an</strong> underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of epistemology <strong>an</strong>d the cultural context beh<strong>in</strong>d research paradigms, we<br />

c<strong>an</strong> apply the same scrut<strong>in</strong>y to this statement around the advocacy of drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization, just<br />

as was pursued around expl<strong>an</strong>ations on the harms of the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s. Aga<strong>in</strong>, rather th<strong>an</strong> a<br />

political ethic based upon solidarity <strong>an</strong>d exam<strong>in</strong>ation of racialized moral p<strong>an</strong>ic beh<strong>in</strong>d fear of<br />

<strong>in</strong>toxication, the report uses the l<strong>an</strong>guage of public health to justify decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. First, it<br />

raises the specter of disease spread, assum<strong>in</strong>g a universal conception of either self preservation<br />

(protect<strong>in</strong>g the larger public from d<strong>an</strong>gerous diseases) or hum<strong>an</strong> empathy around the pa<strong>in</strong> of<br />

suffer<strong>in</strong>g from disease will conv<strong>in</strong>ce the reader on the value of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. An<br />

underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of Karam’s <strong>an</strong>alysis casts doubt upon this assumption, as it is equally likely that<br />

those read<strong>in</strong>g the text may citge fear disease spread among drug users as reason to keep them<br />

<strong>in</strong>carcerated, <strong>an</strong>d view their suffer<strong>in</strong>g as necessary to create a <strong>in</strong>centive for <strong>in</strong>dividuals to “hit<br />

bottom” <strong>an</strong>d free themselves from their drug addiction. In the extreme, one could imag<strong>in</strong>e, as was<br />

argue <strong>in</strong> the mist of harm reduction debates <strong>in</strong> V<strong>an</strong>couver, c<strong>an</strong>ada, that lawmakers will view<br />

<strong>in</strong>crease overdose rates as a social good, argu<strong>in</strong>g that if enough drugs addicts die there would be<br />

no one left to overdose, thus solv<strong>in</strong>g the overdose epidemic (Lupick, 2018).<br />

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Moreover, the frame of the decrim<strong>in</strong>alization argument, which centers public health, locks<br />

<strong>in</strong> a politics of scientific expertise which itself reflects a focus on “objective”, qu<strong>an</strong>titative science,<br />

a spiritual reason<strong>in</strong>g critiqued <strong>in</strong> Part I. The quote from Domosławski cites numerous <strong>in</strong>ternational<br />

treaties, Nobel Laureates, <strong>an</strong>d prom<strong>in</strong>ent non profit <strong>in</strong>stitutions. This c<strong>an</strong> be read as <strong>an</strong> attempt to<br />

launder a seem<strong>in</strong>gly radical idea of drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization through borrow<strong>in</strong>g the <strong>in</strong>stitutional<br />

credibility of these <strong>in</strong>stitutions. While underst<strong>an</strong>dable as a tactic, this process has limitations as it<br />

limits the frame for the forms of evidence that are “admissible” under this frame. Rather th<strong>an</strong><br />

exp<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g the discursive framework to allow “subjugated knowledge” to come to the fore, as<br />

Schiele states, the report seeks to recenter the reader with<strong>in</strong> dom<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>t notions of scientific<br />

respectability. This creates a premium on truth claims which meet the characteristics of eurocentric<br />

research outl<strong>in</strong>ed by Schiele - reductive, qu<strong>an</strong>titative, centered on visual <strong>an</strong>alysis of the discrete<br />

phenomenon, rather th<strong>an</strong> the more spiritual <strong>an</strong>d comprehensive forms of research advocated by<br />

the Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong>s. More directly, the report isolates a political theory of<br />

ch<strong>an</strong>ge, which c<strong>an</strong> be seen as stemm<strong>in</strong>g from the assumptions guid<strong>in</strong>g the research. The report<br />

argues explicitly that the decrim<strong>in</strong>alization movement is be<strong>in</strong>g led by a coalition of “ scientists,<br />

health practitioners, drug users, policymakers, <strong>an</strong>d law enforcement officials.” The idea that drug<br />

users <strong>an</strong>d law enforcement officers could be locked <strong>in</strong> <strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>tagonistic relationship, or a relationship<br />

drought with centuries of racialized violence, is completely absent from the <strong>an</strong>alysis. Po<strong>in</strong>tedly, it<br />

ignores the public safety risks that cont<strong>in</strong>ue to justify racialized violence even <strong>in</strong> the face of <strong>an</strong><br />

attempted shift to public health.<br />

It might be more precise to say it assumes what public health is for whites is what it would<br />

be for racial m<strong>in</strong>orities, despite the cont<strong>in</strong>uous realizations that for racialized m<strong>in</strong>orities public<br />

health itself has been used as a tool for racialized social control. Rail <strong>an</strong>d Jette use the concept of<br />

“biocitizenship” to frame how public health discourses are deployed to justify racialized visions<br />

of “unworthy” biological subjects unable to effectively m<strong>an</strong>age their health through proper<br />

<strong>in</strong>ternalization of discipl<strong>in</strong>e; <strong>an</strong>d thus, need experts to <strong>in</strong>culcate proper biological morality <strong>in</strong>to<br />

them for their own good. They write:<br />

Biomorality thus corresponds to the moral dem<strong>an</strong>d to be happy <strong>an</strong>d healthy. Biomorality<br />

engenders biocitizens. Follow<strong>in</strong>g Foucault, Rose <strong>an</strong>d Novas (2005) argue that biocitizens<br />

are “made up” from above (by medical <strong>an</strong>d legal authorities, public health professionals,<br />

<strong>in</strong>sur<strong>an</strong>ce comp<strong>an</strong>ies, etc.), but they also make themselves. Active biocitizens <strong>in</strong>form<br />

themselves <strong>an</strong>d live responsibly, adjust<strong>in</strong>g lifestyle <strong>an</strong>d all areas of their physical <strong>an</strong>d<br />

social environments so as to maximize health. But those who made up biocitizens <strong>an</strong>d<br />

virtuous sub-populations also contrast them to d<strong>an</strong>gerous Others. These are the weakwilled,<br />

the lazy, the amoral, the unruly, those who do not live responsibly <strong>an</strong>d engage <strong>in</strong><br />

“risky” behavior or do not get <strong>in</strong>volved <strong>in</strong> preventive behavior, <strong>in</strong> brief, those who are<br />

“made up” as domestic bioterrorists who exploit the tax-supported <strong>in</strong>stitutions that<br />

produce health <strong>an</strong>d well-be<strong>in</strong>g. We call these <strong>in</strong>dividuals “bio-Others” (Rail, 2011) as the<br />

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health imperative seems to justify them be<strong>in</strong>g robbed of their full citizenship. Bio-Others<br />

are d<strong>an</strong>gerously undiscipl<strong>in</strong>ed <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong> great need of polic<strong>in</strong>g. Given the ambient<br />

biomorality, coercion to leave the comp<strong>an</strong>y of bio-Others <strong>an</strong>d jo<strong>in</strong> that of biocitizens takes<br />

m<strong>an</strong>y forms, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g surveill<strong>an</strong>ce, marg<strong>in</strong>alization, abjection, public blam<strong>in</strong>g, digital<br />

bully<strong>in</strong>g, police brutality, <strong>an</strong>d economic discrim<strong>in</strong>ation <strong>an</strong>d exploitation. In Western<br />

societies, history shows how m<strong>an</strong>y social groups have been designated as the<br />

contam<strong>in</strong>at<strong>in</strong>g “Other” aga<strong>in</strong>st which public health measures were undertaken (Peterson<br />

& Lupton, 1996). At one po<strong>in</strong>t or <strong>an</strong>other <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong> m<strong>an</strong>y countries, the work<strong>in</strong>g classes,<br />

Indigenous people, immigr<strong>an</strong>ts, women, gays <strong>an</strong>d lesbi<strong>an</strong>s, disabled <strong>in</strong>dividuals, <strong>an</strong>d non-<br />

Europe<strong>an</strong>s have all been the target of biopolitical projects that we now regard as classist,<br />

xeno-phobic, sexist, homophobic, ableist, racist, colonialist, <strong>an</strong>d/or genocidal. (Rail <strong>an</strong>d<br />

Jette, 2015).<br />

While some will be tempted to see these as artifacts of a problematic but long conquered past, Rail<br />

<strong>an</strong>d Jette see this obsession with biocitizenship replicated <strong>in</strong> the various “savior” missions pursued<br />

under the guise of <strong>in</strong>culcated public health for various “Bio-Others.” Us<strong>in</strong>g post-structural<br />

<strong>an</strong>alysis <strong>an</strong>d theories of Michel Foucault, they present a comprehensive critique of seem<strong>in</strong>gly<br />

benevolent public health <strong>in</strong>terventions which deserve to be quoted at length, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

Today, <strong>in</strong> neoliberal societies, all of these projects are still on-go<strong>in</strong>g, but with the<br />

advent of biomorality <strong>an</strong>d phenomena such as genomics, securitization, age-ism,<br />

Islamophobia, <strong>an</strong>d tr<strong>an</strong>sphobia, m<strong>an</strong>y more bio-Others are be<strong>in</strong>g “made up.” Public<br />

health discourses, <strong>in</strong> particular, have performative powers <strong>an</strong>d often produce the illnesses<br />

that they describe, as well as construct social identities for those who are not well.<br />

Everywhere, the “white” <strong>in</strong>dividual is used as a reference po<strong>in</strong>t aga<strong>in</strong>st which bio-Others<br />

are measured <strong>an</strong>d contrasted.<br />

**Rescue Missions to Save Bio-Others Rescue missions are trendy. Popular media are<br />

thirsty for stories of White men sav<strong>in</strong>g Others. Reviv<strong>in</strong>g the spirit of 19 th century<br />

phil<strong>an</strong>thropists, m<strong>an</strong>y biomoralists seek to reach out from their own perfectly constructed<br />

world. Public health officials are equally adept at design<strong>in</strong>g programs aimed at sav<strong>in</strong>g<br />

the degraded <strong>an</strong>d abject. M<strong>an</strong>y rescue missions are weapons of mass conviction but are<br />

couched <strong>in</strong> hum<strong>an</strong>itari<strong>an</strong> rhetoric that renders them palatable. Such missions are designed<br />

to save Bio-Others <strong>an</strong>d take m<strong>an</strong>y forms.<br />

**Provisionist. The provisionist mission consists <strong>in</strong> ask<strong>in</strong>g bio-Others what they need <strong>an</strong>d<br />

then attempt<strong>in</strong>g to give it to them. The mission occludes social structure <strong>an</strong>d implies that<br />

Bio-Others are unwell because they lack someth<strong>in</strong>g quite basic to atta<strong>in</strong> or ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong> their<br />

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wellbe<strong>in</strong>g (e.g., a green area <strong>in</strong> their neighborhood, access to nutritious food, a soccer<br />

ball, <strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>tidepress<strong>an</strong>t, a gym pass). In theory, provid<strong>in</strong>g bio-Others with what they lack<br />

will save them.<br />

**Culturalist. This approach similarly erases social, economic, <strong>an</strong>d political factors. In<br />

theory, it encourages those <strong>in</strong> the health <strong>an</strong>d wellness bus<strong>in</strong>ess to play a role by<br />

establish<strong>in</strong>g trust with bio-Others <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>terven<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> a way that is culturally sensitive. If<br />

culture is the problem, it c<strong>an</strong> also be the solution. Examples of this type of mission abound<br />

<strong>in</strong> C<strong>an</strong>ada <strong>an</strong>d the United States where federal programs to restore the health of<br />

Aborig<strong>in</strong>al people <strong>in</strong>volve a return to traditions <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g hunt<strong>in</strong>g, fish<strong>in</strong>g, harvest<strong>in</strong>g<br />

traditional foods, d<strong>an</strong>c<strong>in</strong>g, <strong>an</strong>d play<strong>in</strong>g games. Here, <strong>in</strong>terventions are performative <strong>in</strong> that<br />

they produce the “Aborig<strong>in</strong>als” that they describe on the basis of cultural relics previously<br />

wiped out by colonization.<br />

**Biopedagogical. This type of mission does not question patriarchal or colonial<br />

hierarchies either. Be<strong>in</strong>g taught to be well is often similar to be<strong>in</strong>g told to be well. Current<br />

biopedagogical missions work on the premise tha the bio-Other has a unified self <strong>an</strong>d a<br />

fixed subject position. It assumes that, for such a subject, knowledge necessarily leads to<br />

desired behavior <strong>an</strong>d therefore that, as this subject becomes more <strong>in</strong>formed about health<br />

<strong>an</strong>d how to atta<strong>in</strong> it, he or she will behave <strong>in</strong> ways that lead to such health. The<br />

biopedagogical approach draws upon a neoliberal notion of <strong>in</strong>dividualism that positions<br />

the bio-Other as capable of, <strong>an</strong>d responsible for, ch<strong>an</strong>g<strong>in</strong>g his or her lifestyle <strong>an</strong>d therefore<br />

<strong>in</strong> effect<strong>in</strong>g his or her health. Underly<strong>in</strong>g notions of “Buy<strong>in</strong>g Green” <strong>an</strong>d “Go<strong>in</strong>g Org<strong>an</strong>ic”<br />

or shows such as the Biggest Loser or Jamie Oliver’s Kitchen is the belief that a set of<br />

historical, social, environmental, cultural, political, <strong>an</strong>d economic issues c<strong>an</strong> be put aside<br />

<strong>in</strong> favor of a simple <strong>in</strong>tervention me<strong>an</strong>t to teach folks how to live life the “right way.”<br />

**Participatory. Aga<strong>in</strong>st the background of the health imperative, m<strong>an</strong>y experts have spent<br />

time explor<strong>in</strong>g ways to engage bio-Others. With this fourth type of mission, bio-Others are<br />

encouraged to partake <strong>in</strong> decision-mak<strong>in</strong>g processes lead<strong>in</strong>g to predef<strong>in</strong>ed objectives<br />

related to health. M<strong>an</strong>y fem<strong>in</strong>ists have drawn attention to the limitations of a conception<br />

of participation that implicitly excludes women or certa<strong>in</strong> women (e.g., poor, less educated,<br />

racialized, queer, disabled, <strong>an</strong>d so on). Other authors lament the fact that participatory<br />

models almost always <strong>in</strong>volve a hierarchy of knowledge where expert knowledge is<br />

considered superior to non-expert knowledge.<br />

Participatory missions also <strong>in</strong>volve a “community” of bio-Others <strong>in</strong> need of sav<strong>in</strong>g, but<br />

there is often a reification of this “community.” Indeed, the concept of “community” me<strong>an</strong>s<br />

a shared identity of <strong>in</strong>terest among some people, but there is little recognition of other<br />

shared experiences l<strong>in</strong>ked to health status, cis status, size, class, race, ability, <strong>an</strong>d so on<br />

that <strong>in</strong>tersect or conflict with place-based identities (Peterson & Lupton, 1996). Missions<br />

that <strong>in</strong>volve community participation (e.g., to ch<strong>an</strong>ge the food l<strong>an</strong>dscape <strong>in</strong> <strong>an</strong> area or to<br />

reduce sedentary liv<strong>in</strong>g or to decrease drug use or alcoholism) call upon bio-Others to<br />

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discipl<strong>in</strong>e themselves <strong>in</strong> conformity with the collectively decided activities <strong>an</strong>d to utilize<br />

their agency <strong>in</strong> fulfillment of pre-set health objectives. Involvement <strong>in</strong> such a decisionmak<strong>in</strong>g<br />

process <strong>an</strong>d chosen activities presupposes will<strong>in</strong>gness, <strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong> entire r<strong>an</strong>ge of<br />

personal attributes, skills, attitudes, <strong>an</strong>d commitments.<br />

**Empower<strong>in</strong>g. The last type of mission focuses on empowerment. Unfortunately,<br />

empowerment has been co-opted by neoliberal m<strong>an</strong>agerial discourses. While at some<br />

po<strong>in</strong>t, it was associated to critically <strong>an</strong>alyz<strong>in</strong>g, resist<strong>in</strong>g, <strong>an</strong>d challeng<strong>in</strong>g structures of<br />

power that create wellbe<strong>in</strong>g for the few <strong>an</strong>d misery for the masses, it has been recuperated<br />

to me<strong>an</strong> that a benevolent, hum<strong>an</strong>itari<strong>an</strong> agent of empowerment works to help people<br />

develop capacities to act successfully with<strong>in</strong> the exist<strong>in</strong>g system. Attempts to empower<br />

marg<strong>in</strong>alized bio-Others via a neoliberal variety of empowerment mission may be<br />

regarded as one more way of def<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g, regulat<strong>in</strong>g, <strong>an</strong>d normaliz<strong>in</strong>g bio-Others. It is reli<strong>an</strong>t<br />

upon the use of strategies that position bio-Others as act<strong>in</strong>g of their own free will <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong><br />

their own <strong>in</strong>terests to reach or protect their own health, guided by agents of empowerment<br />

possess<strong>in</strong>g rationality <strong>an</strong>d expert knowledge. But, who is positioned to empower? How are<br />

empowerment <strong>an</strong>d hum<strong>an</strong>itari<strong>an</strong> missions historically embedded? And what are some of<br />

their foreseen <strong>an</strong>d unforeseen consequences? What does <strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>ti-racist <strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>ti-colonial<br />

lens reveal about past <strong>an</strong>d present empowerment <strong>in</strong>terventions? What are the paradoxical<br />

relationships between hum<strong>an</strong>itarism <strong>an</strong>d imperialism? And what are the equally<br />

paradoxical relationships between empowerment <strong>an</strong>d status quo?<br />

In the end, all five types of rescue missions <strong>in</strong>sist that bio-Others “do it” by themselves <strong>an</strong>d<br />

for themselves. Such <strong>in</strong>sistence on personal responsibility is the perfect corollary to a<br />

politics that aims to legitimize <strong>in</strong>justice, poverty, <strong>an</strong>d un-wellness. McAll (2008) has used<br />

the concept of “health tr<strong>an</strong>sfer” to characterize the distribution of health <strong>in</strong> C<strong>an</strong>ada. We<br />

would like to extend his <strong>an</strong>alysis to speak of health <strong>in</strong> a globalized world. Health is<br />

unevenly distributed <strong>an</strong>d, <strong>in</strong> general, more present among those few who are positioned to<br />

appropriate the resources <strong>an</strong>d the work of others. It is notably via the exploitation of the<br />

work of m<strong>an</strong>y Others (usually female, poorer, darker) that the (usually male, richer, whiter)<br />

few forge their wealth <strong>an</strong>d wellbe<strong>in</strong>g. The richer few get Others to work <strong>in</strong> a way that<br />

exempts the former from brutal work<strong>in</strong>g conditions. The richer few also protect their<br />

wellbe<strong>in</strong>g by appropriat<strong>in</strong>g resources (e.g., green spaces, better hous<strong>in</strong>g, leisure time)<br />

l<strong>in</strong>ked to health <strong>an</strong>d this leads to the social exclusion of Others who are then, less healthy.<br />

In this way, there is a tr<strong>an</strong>sfer of health between sub-populations, <strong>an</strong>d exploited Others<br />

often become bio-Others. At the global level, the health of workers <strong>in</strong> the South is<br />

tr<strong>an</strong>sferred for the health <strong>an</strong>d wellbe<strong>in</strong>g of those <strong>in</strong> the North.<br />

To sum it up, biomorality leads to rescue missions that are generally afflicted by the savior<br />

syndrome. Such missions have a depoliticiz<strong>in</strong>g effect. They entrench exist<strong>in</strong>g power<br />

structures, exacerbate class divisions, <strong>an</strong>d reproduce patriarchal <strong>an</strong>d colonial hierarchies<br />

that pave the way to the tr<strong>an</strong>sfer of health from the masses to the lucky few. Ironically then,<br />

biomorality connects to “psychopathology” <strong>in</strong> the sense that <strong>an</strong> entire section of the world<br />

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population is <strong>an</strong>tisocial, sometimes a crim<strong>in</strong>al, <strong>an</strong>d lacks of sense of moral responsibility<br />

for the health <strong>an</strong>d wellbe<strong>in</strong>g of others. This is how bio-Others come to have “disposable<br />

bodies” as Karam (2014) has shown, <strong>an</strong>d why their lives are at times “ungrievable” as<br />

Butler (2009) would say. (ibid)<br />

This text sets up a vital touchpo<strong>in</strong>t <strong>in</strong> this <strong>an</strong>alysis. Rail <strong>an</strong>d Jette set a touchtone <strong>in</strong> isolat<strong>in</strong>g m<strong>an</strong>y<br />

of the conceptual justification <strong>an</strong>d technologies public health uses to launder racist, sexist, classist,<br />

<strong>an</strong>d ableist assumptions through a lens of benevolent <strong>in</strong>tervention. By present<strong>in</strong>g populations with<br />

the illusions of control <strong>an</strong>d participation, Rail <strong>an</strong>d Jette note that these populations are ultimately<br />

made responsible for their suffer<strong>in</strong>g, as the public health <strong>in</strong>terventions are engaged outside of the<br />

context of more subst<strong>an</strong>tial structural ch<strong>an</strong>ge. Even under a seem<strong>in</strong>gly culturally competent<br />

approach, these strategies reduce culture down to abstractions <strong>an</strong>d artifacts (d<strong>an</strong>ce, food, cloth<strong>in</strong>g).<br />

It seeks to use culture <strong>in</strong> the context of a reductive, tr<strong>an</strong>sactionalism vision of empowerment where<br />

<strong>in</strong> exch<strong>an</strong>ge for prov<strong>in</strong>g productive bio-citizenship, the culture of oppressed people comes under<br />

attack, <strong>an</strong>d its orig<strong>in</strong> recognition is erased. Even <strong>in</strong> the seem<strong>in</strong>gly most benign “provisional” model<br />

of public health <strong>in</strong>terventions, where oppressed populations tell officials what they w<strong>an</strong>t <strong>an</strong>d then,<br />

ostensibly, get it, experts <strong>an</strong>d lawmakers are still positioned as the power brokers <strong>an</strong>d are<br />

positioned to shape the contours of what <strong>in</strong>terventions are “givable” or even “askable” <strong>in</strong> the<br />

context of this engagement. One wonders what would happen if communities gathered <strong>an</strong>d told<br />

public health officials they w<strong>an</strong>ted “reparations for the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s” or even “the b<strong>an</strong>ishment of<br />

racist public health <strong>in</strong>stitutions from their neighborhoods” as part of these “empowerment”<br />

sessions. Rail <strong>an</strong>d Jette note that the goal of these sessions is often to round down visions of<br />

sweep<strong>in</strong>g political ch<strong>an</strong>ge to <strong>an</strong> idea of social repair, which creates healthy biocitizenship with<strong>in</strong><br />

a racist, neoliberal framework. You c<strong>an</strong> get fresh fruit at the corner store, but you c<strong>an</strong>’t challenge<br />

the political economy of neoliberalism, which forces you to buy fast food <strong>an</strong>d cook quick meals to<br />

get to your service economy job.<br />

While Rail <strong>an</strong>d Jette set up some useful <strong>an</strong>alysis <strong>in</strong> critiqu<strong>in</strong>g the assumptive logic of public<br />

health <strong>in</strong>terventions, they should not be seen as necessarily representative of <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong><br />

<strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong>. As Schiele notes, the Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong> should not be<br />

confused with a poststructuralist critique of power relations.While the Post Structuralists seek to<br />

name <strong>an</strong>d call out power <strong>an</strong>d engage <strong>in</strong> “archeological” <strong>an</strong>alysis of the historical complexity <strong>an</strong>d<br />

cont<strong>in</strong>gency of so-called “objective” truth claims to po<strong>in</strong>t out how they seek to reify power <strong>an</strong>d<br />

constra<strong>in</strong> <strong>in</strong>dividual freedom, the Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong> aims to see the world<br />

through a communalist lens. Rather th<strong>an</strong> merely identify<strong>in</strong>g power to <strong>an</strong>alyze how best to<br />

underm<strong>in</strong>e it, the Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong> builds new <strong>in</strong>stitutions which m<strong>an</strong>ifest<br />

visions of collective empowerment <strong>an</strong>d freedom. For example, while equally critical of superficial<br />

<strong>an</strong>d “culturalist” <strong>in</strong>terventions, <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong> would be sure to not<br />

assume that just because a racist neoliberal view culture as <strong>an</strong> abstract force, that this should not<br />

be cont<strong>in</strong>ued as <strong>in</strong>dicat<strong>in</strong>g all attempt to leverage the cultural resources of the community to<br />

address a social problem. Moreover, while Rail <strong>an</strong>d Jette attempt to adopt a comprehensive vision<br />

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of critiqu<strong>in</strong>g power, the Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong> attempts to underst<strong>an</strong>d the<br />

specificity of how Anti-Black <strong>an</strong>d Eurocentric thought systems function <strong>in</strong> the reproduction of<br />

<strong>in</strong>equality <strong>an</strong>d violence. The goal is not to avoid the wield<strong>in</strong>g power, but <strong>in</strong>stead, explicitly build<br />

it for oppressed people. This is also not to say that all forms of oppression c<strong>an</strong> be reduced to race;<br />

white supremacy serves as <strong>an</strong> epistemological frame through which other forms of identity, such<br />

as gender <strong>an</strong>d sexuality, become salient.<br />

The violence of the modern state formation has been so centrally formed by Eurocentric<br />

<strong>in</strong>stitutions operationalized white supremacist violence. Hav<strong>in</strong>g a grasp on the function<strong>in</strong>g of this<br />

system is <strong>an</strong> essential part of guid<strong>in</strong>g the approach of more comprehensive strategies of liberation.<br />

For example, while acknowledg<strong>in</strong>g that medical violence has impacted all oppressed people, it is<br />

also critical to <strong>an</strong>alyze the unique ways <strong>in</strong> which chattel slavery ch<strong>an</strong>ged the “doctor-patient”<br />

relationship for people of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent. As Harriet Wash<strong>in</strong>gton notes, the very idea of a “doctorpatient”<br />

relationship obscures the “master/slave relationship,” which was at the core of Black<br />

people's relationship to the medical profession from the <strong>in</strong>ception of Americ<strong>an</strong> medic<strong>in</strong>e<br />

(Wash<strong>in</strong>gton,2015). Wash<strong>in</strong>gton expla<strong>in</strong>s that under Americ<strong>an</strong> chattel slavery, the doctor had no<br />

ethical obligation to the enslaved Afric<strong>an</strong> they were treat<strong>in</strong>g, but solely to the owner, as the goal<br />

of medic<strong>in</strong>e was render the slave fit to work, not to return them to <strong>an</strong>y abstract notion of true<br />

“health” (ibd). John Hoberm<strong>an</strong> writes <strong>in</strong> his <strong>an</strong>alysis of racism <strong>in</strong> the medical professions that<br />

doctors at times seem to mirror police officers <strong>in</strong> their authority over black bodies, exercis<strong>in</strong>g<br />

freedom from democratic accountability that allows <strong>an</strong>ti-Black ideologies to flourish among their<br />

r<strong>an</strong>ks. He writes:<br />

As one physici<strong>an</strong>-author noted <strong>in</strong> 1988, “doctors are unwill<strong>in</strong>g to blow the whistle on other<br />

doctors. It’s somehow bad m<strong>an</strong>ners or break<strong>in</strong>g the faith of the medical profession to report<br />

a bad doctor.” In this sense, the practice of medic<strong>in</strong>e, like police work, is more of a<br />

fraternal order th<strong>an</strong> a scientific community that recognizes <strong>an</strong>d acts upon its responsibility<br />

to monitor <strong>an</strong>d correct the devi<strong>an</strong>t <strong>an</strong>d d<strong>an</strong>gerous misconduct of its practitioners.<br />

Another powerful factor that shields doctors from scrut<strong>in</strong>y is the “halo effect” that wraps<br />

physici<strong>an</strong>s <strong>in</strong> <strong>an</strong> aura of benevolent power. “Doctors,” a New York Times writer noted <strong>in</strong><br />

2009, “have a degree of professional autonomy that is probably unmatched outside of<br />

academia. And that is how we like it. We th<strong>in</strong>k of our doctors as wise men <strong>an</strong>d women who<br />

c<strong>an</strong> comb<strong>in</strong>e knowledge <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>st<strong>in</strong>ct to l<strong>an</strong>d on just the right treatment.” The comb<strong>in</strong>ation<br />

of benevolent <strong>in</strong>tent <strong>an</strong>d the power to heal has traditionally conferred upon doctors “a<br />

degree of professional autonomy” that c<strong>an</strong> make them appear as sages who have earned<br />

a status that puts them beyond the judgments of observers who do not belong to the guild.<br />

The physici<strong>an</strong>’s authority <strong>an</strong>d autonomy c<strong>an</strong> promote a socially conservative identity that<br />

resists both personal self-exam<strong>in</strong>ation <strong>an</strong>d social reforms. Social conservatives may not<br />

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see the causal relationship between self-scrut<strong>in</strong>y <strong>an</strong>d a will<strong>in</strong>gness to promote social<br />

ch<strong>an</strong>ge, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g the profound social ch<strong>an</strong>ges that <strong>an</strong>tiracist policies require. Even today,<br />

social conservatives (<strong>an</strong>d others) reta<strong>in</strong> the option of preserv<strong>in</strong>g the traditional racial<br />

hierarchy <strong>an</strong>d its racist folklore <strong>in</strong>side their heads, while conform<strong>in</strong>g to <strong>an</strong>tiracist public<br />

norms that enforce public civility <strong>an</strong>d a degree of racial <strong>in</strong>tegration with<strong>in</strong> “discipl<strong>in</strong>ed”<br />

workplaces such as hospitals <strong>an</strong>d cl<strong>in</strong>ics. There c<strong>an</strong> be no doubt that m<strong>an</strong>y doctors choose<br />

this option, thereby discipl<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g their social conduct but not their racial imag<strong>in</strong>ations.<br />

The research I have done for this book confirms that physici<strong>an</strong>s share the racial attitudes<br />

of their fellow citizens. Indeed, their <strong>in</strong>timate <strong>in</strong>volvement with medically afflicted black<br />

bodies <strong>an</strong>d m<strong>in</strong>ds may even create <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>tensify feel<strong>in</strong>gs about the racial differences they<br />

perceive. There is, then, no evident reason to assume that doctors feel greater sympathy<br />

toward or possess a greater underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong>s that most whites do. On<br />

the contrary, it is probable that m<strong>an</strong>y doctors, like police officers, are exposed to more<br />

th<strong>an</strong> their fair share of extreme <strong>an</strong>d unattractive behaviors of the troubled <strong>an</strong>d the <strong>in</strong>digent,<br />

a disproportionate number of whom may be black. These experiences do not produce racial<br />

goodwill. Consequently, as one Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong> physici<strong>an</strong> commented <strong>in</strong> 1990: “The<br />

problem is not that medical providers are ethically deficient compared with the public, it<br />

is that we are no longer <strong>an</strong>y better. Our r<strong>an</strong>ks <strong>in</strong>clude racists <strong>an</strong>d virtually every other<br />

variety of impaired citizenry. (Hoberm<strong>an</strong>, 2012).<br />

This has profound implications for the theory of ch<strong>an</strong>ge laid outl<strong>in</strong>ed by Domoslawski. The idea<br />

that doctors <strong>an</strong>d law enforcement officers, who are both structurally <strong>in</strong>oculated from accountability<br />

specifically to Black populations <strong>an</strong>d given legally s<strong>an</strong>ctioned authority over the lives of<br />

oppressed, c<strong>an</strong> engage as a political “equals” with racialized drug users, specially Black drug users,<br />

is ignor<strong>an</strong>t of not only political economy which creates a massive power imbal<strong>an</strong>ce with<strong>in</strong> this<br />

“coalition”, but the “libid<strong>in</strong>al” economy undergird<strong>in</strong>g vision of racialized drug users as threats to<br />

white society <strong>an</strong>d the authority of the very cops <strong>an</strong>d doctors Domoslawski <strong>an</strong>d those like him are<br />

ask<strong>in</strong>g drug users to work with.<br />

It could be argued, <strong>in</strong> Domosławski’s defense, that he is specifically a Polish journalist<br />

writ<strong>in</strong>g about his observations around drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization <strong>in</strong> Portugal, which does not have the<br />

same racialized history around polic<strong>in</strong>g that the United States has. Rather th<strong>an</strong> challeng<strong>in</strong>g this<br />

critique of eurocentric research paradigms, this argument precisely proves why it is so d<strong>an</strong>gerous.<br />

In the physical sciences, research f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>gs c<strong>an</strong> be tr<strong>an</strong>slated from one country or l<strong>an</strong>guage to<br />

<strong>an</strong>other with confidence that the physical properties underly<strong>in</strong>g the <strong>in</strong>teractions will not ch<strong>an</strong>ge<br />

from country to country. The notion that <strong>an</strong>yth<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>alogous c<strong>an</strong> be done with social science<br />

should be on face ridiculous, given the specific contextual histories of social formations (<strong>an</strong>d<br />

specifically, racialized violence) <strong>an</strong>d how it differs from nation to nation. Yet there are attempts to<br />

treat the social science question of addiction as if biological processes <strong>in</strong>volved <strong>in</strong> chemical<br />

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dependency occur objectively outside of the context of the society which produces these addicts.<br />

Here the “disease theory” of addiction risks lock<strong>in</strong>g researchers <strong>in</strong>to <strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>advertent ignor<strong>an</strong>ce of<br />

how tr<strong>an</strong>spos<strong>in</strong>g “objectively” productive <strong>in</strong>stitutions <strong>in</strong>to <strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong> context c<strong>an</strong> create a<br />

hazardous situation for racialized (specifically Black) “bio-others.”<br />

On Portugal- The D<strong>an</strong>gers <strong>in</strong> Implement<strong>in</strong>g Colorbl<strong>in</strong>d, ”Disease Model” Reforms<br />

for Addiction<br />

Portugal is the most prom<strong>in</strong>ent example held up by advocates of drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization as<br />

the model of good policy which m<strong>an</strong>y argue should be a model for reforms <strong>in</strong> the United States.<br />

No report on drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization could be complete without referr<strong>in</strong>g the Protugese experiment.<br />

Given the bevy of resources available summariz<strong>in</strong>g the Protugese experiment, <strong>an</strong>d previous quotes<br />

which allude to the Protugese model, it is logical to directly <strong>an</strong>alyse the limitations <strong>an</strong>d culturally<br />

assumptions beh<strong>in</strong>d the elevation of the Protugese model to exam<strong>in</strong>ation <strong>an</strong>d limitations <strong>an</strong>d<br />

potential to create new forms of control <strong>an</strong>d bias.<br />

While the details of the Portugal model c<strong>an</strong> be explored through subsequent <strong>an</strong>alysis, the<br />

historical narrative around Portugal is a useful place to start, as it reveals several essential po<strong>in</strong>ts<br />

of <strong>an</strong>alysis <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong> c<strong>an</strong> add to drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization research.<br />

Domosławski presents what is a common narrative around expla<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g how Portugal “descended”<br />

<strong>in</strong>to <strong>an</strong> addiction crisis. He writes:<br />

“After the Second World War, Portugal, alongside Spa<strong>in</strong> under General Fr<strong>an</strong>co, was the<br />

only Europe<strong>an</strong> country where authoritari<strong>an</strong> power was still exercised by fascist-oriented<br />

political groups orig<strong>in</strong>at<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> the 1920s. Portugal was a firmly Catholic, traditional,<br />

conservative society governed by the authoritari<strong>an</strong> dictatorship of Antonio Salazar. Under<br />

the Salazar regime, the Catholic Church ga<strong>in</strong>ed signific<strong>an</strong>t <strong>in</strong>fluence.<br />

Salazar’s Portugal was also <strong>an</strong> autarkic country, closed to new ideas, ch<strong>an</strong>ges <strong>in</strong><br />

Western societies, <strong>an</strong>d new trends <strong>in</strong> culture <strong>an</strong>d customs. The counterculture movements<br />

of the 1960s that celebrated drug use as a component of fashion <strong>an</strong>d culture largely passed<br />

over Portugal. <strong>Drug</strong> use (ma<strong>in</strong>ly LSD) was accepted with<strong>in</strong> Portugal’s relatively small<br />

communities of artists <strong>an</strong>d bohemi<strong>an</strong>s, but it was sporadic <strong>an</strong>d had little cultural or social<br />

impact<br />

.<br />

It was not until the late 1970s that drugs became a noticeable problem <strong>in</strong> Portugal.<br />

A number of factors potentially contributed to <strong>in</strong>creased drug use <strong>in</strong> Portugal: the end of<br />

the colonial war <strong>in</strong> Africa <strong>an</strong>d the return of people from the colonies (<strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g soldiers of<br />

the Portuguese empire), <strong>an</strong>d the fall of the Salazar dictatorship <strong>in</strong> 1974, which resulted <strong>in</strong><br />

a very closed country quickly open<strong>in</strong>g to the world. A recurrent observation made by<br />

<strong>in</strong>terviewees <strong>in</strong> this study was that drug use, or, to be precise, c<strong>an</strong>nabis use, started to<br />

become more visible <strong>in</strong> Portugal when Portuguese citizens returned from colonies where<br />

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mariju<strong>an</strong>a was grown <strong>an</strong>d used openly. Others ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong>ed that with Portugal’s open<strong>in</strong>g<br />

after 1974, drug use was simply part of a large “package” of issues that it beg<strong>an</strong> to share<br />

with other Western societies as the country, pursu<strong>in</strong>g more multilateral cooperation with<br />

other countries, became exposed to new ideas, trends, <strong>an</strong>d fashions.<br />

After a half century of isolation, the Portuguese were ill-prepared to confront the wave<br />

of ch<strong>an</strong>ges that came with greater openness <strong>in</strong> the late 1970s. They possessed no common<br />

knowledge about drugs, especially the dist<strong>in</strong>ction between hard <strong>an</strong>d soft drugs, what<br />

problems different drugs carried, what health risks they presented to <strong>in</strong>dividuals, or what<br />

k<strong>in</strong>d of social problems they caused.<br />

In the early 1980s, the most commonly used drugs <strong>in</strong> Portugal were hashish <strong>an</strong>d<br />

mariju<strong>an</strong>a, but hero<strong>in</strong> had already appeared by the late 1970s. Hero<strong>in</strong> smuggled from<br />

Pakist<strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>d India through the former colony of Mozambique by Portuguese of Pakist<strong>an</strong>i<br />

orig<strong>in</strong> was sold on Portuguese streets <strong>in</strong> the late 1970s <strong>an</strong>d early 1980s. Then, when two<br />

large g<strong>an</strong>gs smuggl<strong>in</strong>g hero<strong>in</strong> through Mozambique were broken up, hero<strong>in</strong> started<br />

flow<strong>in</strong>g from the Netherl<strong>an</strong>ds. Because hero<strong>in</strong> smuggl<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> Portugal consisted of so m<strong>an</strong>y<br />

small groups <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>dividual smugglers, the authorities found it impossible to stop. Hero<strong>in</strong><br />

use was also ch<strong>an</strong>g<strong>in</strong>g at this time, as consumers started to smoke as well as <strong>in</strong>ject the<br />

drug.<br />

In the late 1980s, <strong>an</strong>d especially <strong>in</strong> the early 1990s, drug consumption <strong>in</strong> Portugal<br />

became a subject of social concern. M<strong>an</strong>y people <strong>in</strong> Portuguese society concluded that the<br />

country had a serious drug problem <strong>an</strong>d high drug consumption. At the time, this<br />

conviction was not based on <strong>an</strong>y research on consumption, but simply general impressions<br />

<strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>ecdotal evidence. A likely contribut<strong>in</strong>g factor to these impressions was that drug<br />

consumption <strong>in</strong> some districts of Lisbon <strong>an</strong>d other bigger cities had become more open <strong>an</strong>d<br />

visible. A EuroBarometer survey conducted <strong>in</strong> 1997 showed that the Portuguese perceived<br />

drug-related issues as the country’s ma<strong>in</strong> social problem. Four years later <strong>in</strong> 2001,4 when<br />

the new law decrim<strong>in</strong>aliz<strong>in</strong>g drug possession <strong>an</strong>d use was implemented, drugs occupied<br />

third place on the list of issues that gave rise to social concern among the Portuguese.<br />

(ibid).<br />

Domosławski <strong>in</strong>clusion of Pakist<strong>an</strong>i <strong>an</strong>d Mozambique be<strong>in</strong>g seen as the progenitors of a hero<strong>in</strong>e<br />

epidemic <strong>in</strong> Portugal should be read with<strong>in</strong> the <strong>an</strong>alysis given by Netherl<strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>d Hass<strong>an</strong>. In this<br />

context, Portugal’s underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of addiction is deeply l<strong>in</strong>ked to narrative of protect<strong>in</strong>g whiteness<br />

from devi<strong>an</strong>t otherness. It c<strong>an</strong> also be read with<strong>in</strong> the context of Karam’s <strong>an</strong>alysis, with c<strong>an</strong>nabis<br />

<strong>an</strong>d LSD seen as “m<strong>in</strong>d exp<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g” “soft” drugs which c<strong>an</strong> coexist with <strong>an</strong>d maybe even facilitate<br />

the function<strong>in</strong>g of whtie subjected rationally engag<strong>in</strong>g with the world <strong>an</strong>d affirm<strong>in</strong>g archetypal<br />

white characteristics of self control, while hero<strong>in</strong>e is seen as a drug which threats whiteness <strong>an</strong>d<br />

creat<strong>in</strong>g idleness <strong>an</strong>d robb<strong>in</strong>g its “victims” of their rational facilities (i.e. racially “blacken<strong>in</strong>g”<br />

them). F<strong>in</strong>ally, Portugal c<strong>an</strong> be read with<strong>in</strong> Alex<strong>an</strong>der’s <strong>an</strong>alysis of “psychosocial” <strong>in</strong>tegration <strong>an</strong>d<br />

socials structures as be<strong>in</strong>g the superstructure which creates the context for addiction. The tr<strong>an</strong>sition<br />

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from military dictatorship to democracy required the destruction of old <strong>in</strong>stitutions built to support<br />

the military regime <strong>an</strong>d the refashion<strong>in</strong>g of a democratic civil society; this is a recipe for disrupt<strong>in</strong>g<br />

psycho-social <strong>in</strong>tegration <strong>an</strong>d under Alex<strong>an</strong>der’s theory it is logical under these conditions<br />

addiction would <strong>in</strong>crease. Indeed, one could use Alex<strong>an</strong>der’s theory to present the hypothesis that<br />

as decmoratic civil society reasserts itself, psycho-social <strong>in</strong>tegration could be reestablished <strong>an</strong>d the<br />

addiction “epidemic” could largely resolve itself, a hypothesis supported by the fact that, <strong>in</strong> 2001,<br />

only 8% admitted drug use, putt<strong>in</strong>g Portugal's drug use rates among the lowest <strong>in</strong> Europe even<br />

before the roll<strong>in</strong>g out of the “revolutionary” drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization regime (ibid). While it’s<br />

possible that self reported drug use rates c<strong>an</strong> under count actual drug use rates, as <strong>in</strong>dividual may<br />

feel a self of shame (especially <strong>in</strong> a concervative society like Portugal), one could imag<strong>in</strong>e similar<br />

dynamics be<strong>in</strong>g at play <strong>in</strong> all the Europe<strong>an</strong> nation’s who self reported data. That Portugal's drug<br />

use rates did not seem to be beyond the norm for a Europe<strong>an</strong> country further supports the notion<br />

that a proper <strong>an</strong>alysis of Portugal's drug addiction “crisis” must <strong>in</strong>clude the context of racialized<br />

fears of “wasted whiteness” be<strong>in</strong>g part of the impetus driv<strong>in</strong>g policy ch<strong>an</strong>ges.<br />

This is import<strong>an</strong>t not only <strong>in</strong> underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g the context which produced the sense that there<br />

was <strong>an</strong> “addiction crisis” <strong>in</strong> Portugal <strong>in</strong> the 2000s, but also to underst<strong>an</strong>d the solutions which were<br />

proposed <strong>an</strong>d why they were deemed acceptable <strong>in</strong> that specific period of time. The Portugal<br />

experience is often narrated as the rise of science <strong>an</strong>d reason overwhelm<strong>in</strong>g political <strong>in</strong>ertia,<br />

lead<strong>in</strong>g the creation of <strong>an</strong> enlightened solution through differ<strong>in</strong>g to expertise, as Domosławski<br />

write:<br />

“The Portuguese government’s actions <strong>in</strong> 1998 went precisely aga<strong>in</strong>st all of the typical<br />

<strong>an</strong>d expected “emergency” policy responses. Instead, the government appo<strong>in</strong>ted a<br />

committee of specialists—doctors, sociologists, psychologists, lawyers, <strong>an</strong>d social<br />

activists—<strong>an</strong>d asked the committee to <strong>an</strong>alyze the drug issue <strong>in</strong> Portugal <strong>an</strong>d formulate<br />

recommendations that could be turned <strong>in</strong>to a national strategy.” (ibid).<br />

Given Ani’s <strong>an</strong>alysis of “scientific rationality” <strong>an</strong>d “objective reason” be<strong>in</strong>g use as tools to<br />

promote Europe<strong>an</strong> superiority <strong>an</strong>d dom<strong>in</strong>ation, it is import<strong>an</strong>t that researchers be skeptical of this<br />

narrative. For example, it was not objective, expert led political debate, but the specific<br />

circumst<strong>an</strong>ces of Protuguese society that to drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization laws pass<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> the early 2000s.<br />

Dur<strong>in</strong>g the late 90s <strong>an</strong>d early 2000’s, Domosławski report that their was still a feel<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> Portugese<br />

society that remember the abuses of power under the military dictatorship <strong>an</strong>d creat<strong>in</strong>g a unique<br />

sense of sympathy for folks suffer<strong>in</strong>g under the boot of state authority, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“The fact that there was opposition to the new law <strong>an</strong>d reforms serves to underscore a<br />

const<strong>an</strong>t <strong>an</strong>d fundamental question about the process <strong>in</strong> Portugal: why did the government<br />

adopt the new policy so decisively? Some of those <strong>in</strong>terviewed for this study expla<strong>in</strong>ed it<br />

simply as the government hav<strong>in</strong>g a fundamental conviction <strong>an</strong>d the political will to have<br />

what it saw as the right path prevail. Another <strong>in</strong>terviewee from the IDT noted that after<br />

years of liv<strong>in</strong>g under a dictatorship, the Portuguese public was sensitive to the needs of the<br />

aggrieved <strong>an</strong>d society’s weaker members; bear<strong>in</strong>g this <strong>in</strong> m<strong>in</strong>d, the government could feel<br />

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confident that the electorate would be able to see drug dependent persons as people who<br />

were ill, rather th<strong>an</strong> as crim<strong>in</strong>als, <strong>an</strong>d would therefore react favourably to the new policy.”<br />

(Ibid).<br />

At a surface level, this is import<strong>an</strong>t for this project, as research projects often assume that creat<strong>in</strong>g<br />

by rationally convey<strong>in</strong>g the objective benefits of Portugal’s model, this will help the prospects for<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization <strong>in</strong> America. These notions should be deemed questionable given the specific<br />

circumst<strong>an</strong>ces that created a sense of solidarity <strong>in</strong> Portugal, i.e. a military dictatorship, do not exist<br />

<strong>in</strong> America. Moreover, <strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>alysis of whiteness should help further ref<strong>in</strong>e <strong>an</strong> underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of<br />

why drug addicts were deemed sympathetic, a sense of shared whiteness. Given the <strong>an</strong>alysis of<br />

Karam, Neatherl<strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>d Hass<strong>an</strong>, racialization of addiction, it seems that it is unlikely that<br />

consensus around a genu<strong>in</strong>ely compassionate approach to addiction is likely to flourish <strong>in</strong><br />

America, unless it fits Rail <strong>an</strong>d Jette’s model of <strong>in</strong>culcat<strong>in</strong>g productive “biocitizenship”. With this<br />

as a fame, the specifics of Portugal’s legal <strong>in</strong>terventions around decrim<strong>in</strong>alization c<strong>an</strong> be <strong>an</strong>alyzed<br />

with<strong>in</strong> their proper context.<br />

Despite be<strong>in</strong>g framed as a “<strong>an</strong>ti-crim<strong>in</strong>alization” model, the Progugese model has<br />

embedded <strong>in</strong>to it numerous po<strong>in</strong>ts of discretion where crim<strong>in</strong>al legal system authority c<strong>an</strong> assert<br />

itself. For example, officers cont<strong>in</strong>ue to have discretion to br<strong>in</strong>g relatively m<strong>in</strong>or drug possession<br />

charges back <strong>in</strong>to the preview of the crim<strong>in</strong>al legal system. Domosławski notes that even drug<br />

possession charges at or under the legal limit for deferment, law enforcement officers have the<br />

discretion to determ<strong>in</strong>e whether the accused was actually <strong>in</strong>tend<strong>in</strong>g to sell the drugs, rais<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

charge for possession to possession with <strong>in</strong>tent to distribute <strong>an</strong>d thus m<strong>an</strong>dat<strong>in</strong>g crim<strong>in</strong>al legal<br />

system <strong>in</strong>volvement, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“There was <strong>in</strong>itially a disconnect between the thresholds laid down by statute <strong>an</strong>d those<br />

followed by the courts. However, the courts <strong>in</strong> general were grateful to be relieved of some<br />

of their workload. Under the practice that now prevails, all parties view the threshold<br />

qu<strong>an</strong>tities as <strong>in</strong>dicative rather th<strong>an</strong> b<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g. For example, it should be stressed that the<br />

charts <strong>in</strong>dicate what amount may be for personal use, but it is the task of the police to<br />

determ<strong>in</strong>e what a person <strong>in</strong>tended to do with the subst<strong>an</strong>ces they possess. If a person has<br />

<strong>an</strong> amount that may be considered for personal usage but he or she is caught sell<strong>in</strong>g it, this<br />

rema<strong>in</strong>s a crime. (Domosławski, 2011).<br />

While defenders of the model might not that the police typically use appropriate discretion, <strong>in</strong> the<br />

Americ<strong>an</strong> context the persistent racial <strong>in</strong>equities seen <strong>in</strong> the crim<strong>in</strong>al justice system should make<br />

the prospect of this be<strong>in</strong>g equally applied highly dubious. Despite the well established reality that<br />

m<strong>an</strong>y <strong>in</strong>dividuals who sell drugs are sell<strong>in</strong>g to feed their own addiction, the Protuguese model does<br />

not create accommodations for this, deem<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>tent to distribute, or even the suspicion <strong>in</strong>tent to<br />

distribute through the possession of baggies or scales, as <strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>herently crim<strong>in</strong>al matter. Despite<br />

how the deferral commissions are portrayed as a solution to overdose, the vast majority of<br />

<strong>in</strong>dividuals referred to the commissions are young c<strong>an</strong>nabis users, with 50% under the age of 29<br />

<strong>an</strong>d 73% be<strong>in</strong>g sent for c<strong>an</strong>nabis or hashish use (ibid). While this is logical as drug use skews<br />

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young <strong>an</strong>d their are for more c<strong>an</strong>nabis smokers th<strong>an</strong> hard drug users, it does challenge the<br />

assumption that the deferral commissions should be read centrally as a “compassionate” response<br />

for hard drug users, as the majority of their work deals with lower level c<strong>an</strong>nabis possession. M<strong>an</strong>y<br />

would say that the <strong>in</strong>clusion of lower level c<strong>an</strong>nabis offenses proves the value of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization,<br />

as it keeps low level c<strong>an</strong>nabis offenders out of the crim<strong>in</strong>al legal system. However, Monagh<strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>d<br />

Bewley-Taylor offer a different <strong>in</strong>terpretation for this dynamic, relay<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>terviews done by<br />

journalist Glen Greenwald which presents different <strong>in</strong>terpretation of this data, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“The follow<strong>in</strong>g paragraphs illustrate some of the areas of concern regard<strong>in</strong>g polic<strong>in</strong>g<br />

issues. In his review of the Portuguese decrim<strong>in</strong>alisation ‘regime’, published <strong>in</strong> 2009,<br />

Greenwald notes that:<br />

The effect that the decrim<strong>in</strong>alization regime has had on police conduct with regard to<br />

drug users is unclear <strong>an</strong>d is the source of some debate among Portuguese drug policy<br />

experts. There are, to be sure, some police officers who largely refra<strong>in</strong> from issu<strong>in</strong>g<br />

citations to drug users on the grounds of perceived futility, as they often observe the cited<br />

user on the street once aga<strong>in</strong> us<strong>in</strong>g drugs, lead<strong>in</strong>g such officers to conclude that the<br />

issu<strong>an</strong>ce of citations, without arrests or the threat of crim<strong>in</strong>al prosecution, is worthless.107<br />

However, he cont<strong>in</strong>ues:<br />

Other police officers, however, are more <strong>in</strong>cl<strong>in</strong>ed to act when they see drug usage<br />

now th<strong>an</strong> they were before decrim<strong>in</strong>alization, as they believe that the<br />

treatment options offered to such users are far more effective th<strong>an</strong> turn<strong>in</strong>g users <strong>in</strong>to<br />

crim<strong>in</strong>als (who, even under the crim<strong>in</strong>alization scheme, were typically back on the street<br />

the next day, but without real treatment options). (Geoffrey Monagh<strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>d Dave Bewley-<br />

Taylor, September 2013)<br />

This raises the specter of “net widen<strong>in</strong>g”, or the exp<strong>an</strong>sion of the categories of <strong>in</strong>dividuals subject<br />

to discipl<strong>in</strong>ary <strong>in</strong>stitutions. It is possible that decrim<strong>in</strong>alization led Protugeses police to send<br />

<strong>in</strong>dividuals to deferral commission who otherwise would have simply been let go, under the belief<br />

that they are actually help<strong>in</strong>g the <strong>in</strong>dividual by send<strong>in</strong>g them to the commissions. This should be<br />

seen as a practical application of the theoretical <strong>an</strong>alysis of discourse <strong>an</strong>d cultural epistemology<br />

this report has peruse, as this net widen<strong>in</strong>g should be seen as polie show<strong>in</strong>g a desire to <strong>in</strong>culcate<br />

positive “biocitizenship” <strong>in</strong> populations of drug users. While some decrim advocates claim<br />

Portugal as <strong>an</strong> unqualified success, this <strong>an</strong>alysis raises several questions around this narrative.<br />

Even one of Portugal's most laudable accomplishments, a decrease <strong>in</strong> HIV <strong>in</strong>fection rates, need<br />

to be questioned, as these statistical trends were prevalent throughout Europe dur<strong>in</strong>g this<br />

timeframe, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g nations that did not decrim<strong>in</strong>alize drugs (UNAIDS,2020). This presents the<br />

real possibility that the benefits of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization could be overstated.<br />

In addition to creat<strong>in</strong>g discretion for the crim<strong>in</strong>al legal system to take over, the<br />

“decrim<strong>in</strong>alized” process of the deferral commission also conta<strong>in</strong>s a surpris<strong>in</strong>g degree of punitive<br />

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potential, even without directly <strong>in</strong>volv<strong>in</strong>g the larger crim<strong>in</strong>al legal system. Domosławski give<br />

some details around the possible sub- <strong>in</strong>carceration punishments these deferral commission c<strong>an</strong><br />

levy, writ<strong>in</strong>g;<br />

“If a person fails to attend the Dissuasion Commission, <strong>an</strong> adm<strong>in</strong>istrative s<strong>an</strong>ction may be<br />

applied <strong>in</strong> their absence, such as a f<strong>in</strong>e, revocation of a driv<strong>in</strong>g license or license to bear<br />

arms, community service, or a prohibition from be<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> a certa<strong>in</strong> place.25<br />

...Other adm<strong>in</strong>istrative s<strong>an</strong>ctions <strong>in</strong>clude social work, regular report<strong>in</strong>g to the<br />

commission, the withhold<strong>in</strong>g of social benefits, or six weeks of group therapy <strong>in</strong>stead of a<br />

f<strong>in</strong>e. Similar s<strong>an</strong>ctions may be applied to drug dependent persons at the first meet<strong>in</strong>g if<br />

they do not voluntarily undergo treatment; however, such <strong>in</strong>dividuals are generally not<br />

s<strong>an</strong>ctioned because the commission is try<strong>in</strong>g to persuade them to go <strong>in</strong>to treatment, not<br />

force them <strong>in</strong>to do<strong>in</strong>g so. By law, a f<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>cial f<strong>in</strong>e c<strong>an</strong> never be applied to a drug dependent<br />

person s<strong>in</strong>ce it is thought that this could result <strong>in</strong> further crimes be<strong>in</strong>g committed <strong>in</strong> order<br />

to obta<strong>in</strong> money to pay the f<strong>in</strong>e.<br />

For those not ready to engage with treatment, the commissions take <strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>dividualized <strong>an</strong>d<br />

flexible harm-reduction approach. They have the power to escalate s<strong>an</strong>ctions, but rarely<br />

use it,unless the person is deemed to be a recreational user <strong>in</strong>volved <strong>in</strong> small-time<br />

traffick<strong>in</strong>g but aga<strong>in</strong>st whom there is <strong>in</strong>sufficient evidence to charge, or if the person is<br />

repeatedly caught <strong>in</strong> the vic<strong>in</strong>ity of a school. Most commonly, written warn<strong>in</strong>gs are given<br />

for those not ready to be dissuaded, but the commission also c<strong>an</strong> be more creative <strong>an</strong>d, for<br />

example, extend the suspension period when further <strong>in</strong>fractions arise; this usually happens<br />

when a person is engag<strong>in</strong>g with treatment <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>terventions, but not yet ready to reduce<br />

their drug use or is do<strong>in</strong>g well with regards to harder drugs, like hero<strong>in</strong>, but still smok<strong>in</strong>g<br />

hashish on the side. An IDT member described tak<strong>in</strong>g a “lighter approach” for such<br />

<strong>in</strong>dividuals, say<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“if we have <strong>in</strong> front of us a hero<strong>in</strong> addict who is successfully ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g their treatment<br />

but still smok<strong>in</strong>g some hashish on the side, quite fr<strong>an</strong>kly, that’s the least of their<br />

problems!”27 Failure to comply with <strong>an</strong> adm<strong>in</strong>istrative s<strong>an</strong>ction constitutes the crim<strong>in</strong>al<br />

offense of disobedience <strong>an</strong>d c<strong>an</strong> be referred to a court. However, <strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>terviewee from the<br />

Lisbon Dissuasion Commission stressed that cases of noncompli<strong>an</strong>ce are very rare.28 If a<br />

s<strong>an</strong>ction is complied with, or a procedure is suspended, the case c<strong>an</strong>not be referred to a<br />

court. (ibid)<br />

There seems to be very little data on how often these punitive measures are applied, with most<br />

sources say that coercion is rarely used <strong>an</strong>d is a last resort only when someone doesn’t attend the<br />

deferral commission. Nonetheless, the possibility of pretty serious punishments, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g<br />

necessary government benefits be<strong>in</strong>g stripped away, seems to challenge what m<strong>an</strong>y lay people<br />

would th<strong>in</strong>k when they here the concept of “drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization”. With<strong>in</strong> the concept of a<br />

“Portugal style” drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization regime be<strong>in</strong>g modeled <strong>in</strong> the United States, as much of the<br />

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litureates seems to advocate for, this assortment of punitive tools becomes even more worrisome.<br />

While a comprehensive <strong>an</strong>alysis may be beyond the scope of this report, it is safe to say that every<br />

punishment offered at the Deferral Commission risks hav<strong>in</strong>g serious disproportionate implications<br />

for Black communities <strong>in</strong> America. Black communities are already subject to higher level of<br />

racialized surveill<strong>an</strong>ce while driv<strong>in</strong>g, tak<strong>in</strong>g away their licenses would merely make these<br />

<strong>in</strong>st<strong>an</strong>ces of “driv<strong>in</strong>g while black” a more effective feeder for racial <strong>in</strong>equity <strong>in</strong> the crim<strong>in</strong>al justice<br />

system. Black communities are already deemed <strong>in</strong>herently crim<strong>in</strong>al <strong>an</strong>d d<strong>an</strong>gerous, elim<strong>in</strong>at<strong>in</strong>g<br />

pathways to legal gun ownership raises the specter of Black residents be<strong>in</strong>g convicted of illegal<br />

gun possession, a crime which comes with subst<strong>an</strong>tial jail time. Moreover, with<strong>in</strong> the racialized<br />

public conception of addiction this raises the possibility that the americ<strong>an</strong> legal system might argue<br />

that s<strong>in</strong>ce poor Black communities have disproportionate addiction issues, they have essentially<br />

forfeited their 2nd amendment rights to self defense, a reality which is especially unacceptable<br />

given the rise of racialized violence <strong>in</strong> the country. Much has been written about the political nature<br />

of social work, with state officials often apply<strong>in</strong>g racist conceptions of the <strong>in</strong>herent devi<strong>an</strong>ce of<br />

Black family life to justify break<strong>in</strong>g up Black families <strong>an</strong>d crim<strong>in</strong>aliz<strong>in</strong>g Black behavior (Mart<strong>in</strong><br />

<strong>an</strong>d Mart<strong>in</strong>, 1995, Chapm<strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>d Withers, 2018)). Moreover, while the literature says <strong>in</strong>dividuals<br />

are typically given alternatives to m<strong>an</strong>dated treatment, m<strong>an</strong>dated treatment does not seem to be<br />

beyond the scope of the deferral commissions authority, <strong>an</strong>d while this option may be rarely used<br />

<strong>in</strong> Portugal, Karam’s <strong>an</strong>alysis of racialized drug user as a threat to the very fabric of society makes<br />

it unlikely that this option would be the same sort of “last resort’ here <strong>in</strong> America. M<strong>an</strong>y who have<br />

studied the treatment system of <strong>in</strong> america have noted that it, like social work, is festooned with<br />

racist logic, specifically around racialized applications of 12 step ideology around view<strong>in</strong>g Black<br />

addicts as excessively “willful” <strong>an</strong>d need<strong>in</strong>g to embrace powerlessness <strong>an</strong>d submission as a<br />

precondition for be<strong>in</strong>g render productive “biocitizens” (Mckim, 2018). With m<strong>an</strong>dated treatment<br />

creat<strong>in</strong>g the threat of <strong>in</strong>carceration of a patient is deemed “noncompli<strong>an</strong>t”, addiction counselors<br />

end up wield<strong>in</strong>g vicarious carceral authority, which they c<strong>an</strong> use to coerce racialized perform<strong>an</strong>ces<br />

of acquiescence <strong>in</strong> the name of sobriety (ibid). One wonders is, <strong>in</strong> the Americ<strong>an</strong> context, a system<br />

capable of call<strong>in</strong>g on these levels of violence deserves to be called “decrim<strong>in</strong>alization” at all.<br />

The term “decrim<strong>in</strong>alization” might be mislead<strong>in</strong>g as <strong>an</strong> adjective for the Protugese model,<br />

as it does <strong>in</strong>corporate enh<strong>an</strong>ced polic<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>to parts of the model. Specifically, Portugal <strong>in</strong>creased<br />

police presence <strong>in</strong> schools as part of what it calls its “Safe school” program, with the <strong>in</strong>tention of<br />

creat<strong>in</strong>g a deterrent to drug deal<strong>in</strong>g near youth (Domoslawski, 2010). Given not only the history<br />

of “drug free school zones” <strong>in</strong> America <strong>in</strong>creas<strong>in</strong>g racially unequal level of <strong>in</strong>carceration, but the<br />

nationwide concern over police brutality, specifically the notion of police engag<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> violent<br />

<strong>in</strong>teractions with students <strong>an</strong>d discussion around the so called “school to prison pipel<strong>in</strong>e”, this<br />

provision seems especially likely to expose Black citizens to enh<strong>an</strong>ced level of risk of crim<strong>in</strong>al<br />

justice <strong>in</strong>volvement, go<strong>in</strong>g counter to the very notion of “decrim<strong>in</strong>alization”.<br />

F<strong>in</strong>ally, there is one more potential punishment the Portugauese deferral commissions have<br />

access to which, from the perspective of a research us<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong>,<br />

might be the most concern<strong>in</strong>g. Alex Kreitt relays the under reported fact that the deferral<br />

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commissions have the authority to b<strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>dividuals from visit<strong>in</strong>g certa<strong>in</strong> areas <strong>an</strong>d hav<strong>in</strong>g<br />

relationships with <strong>in</strong>dividuals the court deems <strong>in</strong>appropriate, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

For offenders who do not fall <strong>in</strong>to the dismissal category, the p<strong>an</strong>els c<strong>an</strong> take a r<strong>an</strong>ge of<br />

action, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g issu<strong>in</strong>g a warn<strong>in</strong>g to the offender, requir<strong>in</strong>g the offender to check <strong>in</strong> with<br />

the p<strong>an</strong>el at specified times, order<strong>in</strong>g the offender to enter <strong>in</strong>to a treatment program, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

even b<strong>an</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g the offender from visit<strong>in</strong>g certa<strong>in</strong> places or associat<strong>in</strong>g with certa<strong>in</strong> people…<br />

(Kreitt, 2010).<br />

When operat<strong>in</strong>g from <strong>an</strong> underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of the function<strong>in</strong>g of Anti-blackness, few th<strong>in</strong>gs could be<br />

more concern<strong>in</strong>g th<strong>an</strong> a public policy which creates legal authority for view<strong>in</strong>g entire communities<br />

as devi<strong>an</strong>t <strong>an</strong>d/or d<strong>an</strong>gerous. While this concept is prom<strong>in</strong>ent <strong>in</strong> contemporary americ<strong>an</strong> law<br />

enforcement, with parole violations automatically apply<strong>in</strong>g to certa<strong>in</strong> <strong>in</strong>dividuals found <strong>in</strong> “known<br />

drug traffick<strong>in</strong>g areas”, these notions have been critical tools <strong>in</strong> justify<strong>in</strong>g systemic over polic<strong>in</strong>g<br />

of Black neighborhoods, deemed as <strong>in</strong>herently crim<strong>in</strong>al <strong>an</strong>d devi<strong>an</strong>t. It seems unlikely that large,<br />

predom<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>tly white suburb<strong>an</strong> communities, despite hav<strong>in</strong>g equal rates of drug use as poor <strong>an</strong>d<br />

work<strong>in</strong>g class urb<strong>an</strong> areas, would receive these sort of “no go zone” designation, creat<strong>in</strong>g a<br />

powerful tool for replicat<strong>in</strong>g racial bias. However, one need only have a basic underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of<br />

hum<strong>an</strong> nature <strong>an</strong>d the culture of people of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent to underst<strong>an</strong>d how problematic this<br />

authority c<strong>an</strong> be. If there is <strong>an</strong>y proof to Alex<strong>an</strong>der’s theory of “psycho-social <strong>in</strong>tegration”, or the<br />

connection between <strong>in</strong>dividuals <strong>an</strong>d feel<strong>in</strong>g of hav<strong>in</strong>g a social support system <strong>an</strong>d community,<br />

be<strong>in</strong>g a critical part of the addiction epidemic, there are few easier way to create a crisis of psychosocial<br />

<strong>in</strong>tegration th<strong>an</strong> to legally b<strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>dividuals from engag<strong>in</strong>g with people <strong>in</strong> their community.<br />

While some <strong>in</strong> this community might create factors which drive people toward addiction, others<br />

<strong>in</strong> the same community are likely key to creat<strong>in</strong>g alternative forms of psycho-social <strong>in</strong>tegration<br />

that c<strong>an</strong> create the social networks needed to prevent drug use from slid<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>to full blown<br />

addiction. Beyond the meta level <strong>an</strong>alysis, social connections <strong>in</strong> community are essential for<br />

<strong>in</strong>dividuals to f<strong>in</strong>d jobs <strong>an</strong>d hous<strong>in</strong>g, necessarily stabiliz<strong>in</strong>g factors to create social stability. All<br />

of these factors are magnified when seen through the lens of people of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent. The notion<br />

of ubuntu is also known as “collective subjectivity”, with the <strong>in</strong>dividual see<strong>in</strong>g the basic unit of<br />

social <strong>an</strong>d political life as the community, not the wetern, autonomous, “rational” <strong>in</strong>dividual (Ani,<br />

1994). From the perspective of a culture which operates through collective subjectivity, cutt<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>in</strong>dividuals off from the community is not only a punishment for the <strong>in</strong>dividual, it is a punishment<br />

for the entire community, who see their relationship with the excluded <strong>in</strong>dividual as a necessary<br />

part of their own subjective flourish<strong>in</strong>g. All this needs to be seen with<strong>in</strong> the context of <strong>an</strong>ti-black<br />

notion of the need to “rescue” Black people from their pathological <strong>an</strong>d dev<strong>in</strong>ate Black<br />

communities. What Ibrahim X Kendi call <strong>an</strong> “assimilationist” impulse, i.e. the notion that Black<br />

people need socialization <strong>an</strong>d civilization <strong>in</strong>fluence by engag<strong>in</strong>g with whtie people, white<br />

communities, <strong>an</strong>d whtie <strong>in</strong>stitutions, has been <strong>an</strong> essential fulcrum of Anti-Black policy <strong>an</strong>d<br />

practice <strong>in</strong> America s<strong>in</strong>ce the 1600s (Kendi, 2017). Few policies more neatly fit with<strong>in</strong> Anti-Black<br />

assimilationist assumptions th<strong>an</strong> b<strong>an</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>dividuals from be<strong>in</strong>g around their community <strong>an</strong>d<br />

potentially forc<strong>in</strong>g them <strong>in</strong>to forms of drug treatment which, as 12 Step derived drug treatment<br />

often does, argues for “cutt<strong>in</strong>g off” <strong>in</strong>dividual <strong>in</strong> your past life of us<strong>in</strong>g drugs or <strong>an</strong>y “negative<br />

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<strong>in</strong>fluences” from your past as a precondition for sobriety. Given these realities, researchers<br />

<strong>in</strong>terest<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> productive <strong>an</strong>d em<strong>an</strong>cipatory research must challenge the simplistic notion that<br />

Portugal represents a ”best practice” <strong>in</strong> drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization which should be copied <strong>in</strong> America,<br />

lest one risk ignore a myriad of ways <strong>in</strong> which the Portugese model c<strong>an</strong> be applied <strong>in</strong> a m<strong>an</strong>ner<br />

which could reflect Anti-Black sentiment <strong>an</strong>d even risk exp<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g Anti-Black social control <strong>an</strong>d<br />

violence.<br />

This <strong>an</strong>alysis of the Portugese model helps establish the implications of deconstructive,<br />

Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> on meta level <strong>an</strong>alysis of policy recommendations. We c<strong>an</strong> now apply<br />

the deconstructive model to look more directly at research methods <strong>an</strong>d beg<strong>in</strong> to isolate specific<br />

questions <strong>an</strong>d f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g which may be useful for “heuristic” research.<br />

<strong>Research</strong> Methodology <strong>an</strong>d Anti-Blackness. On the Form <strong>an</strong>d Function of <strong>Drug</strong> Policy<br />

<strong>Research</strong><br />

In <strong>an</strong>alys<strong>in</strong>g a cross section of research on drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization, research methodologies<br />

<strong>an</strong>d practices which are problematized by <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong>. For example,<br />

Kozlowski et al pursued a very <strong>in</strong>terest<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>d potentially useful research project attempt<strong>in</strong>g to do<br />

a qu<strong>an</strong>titative <strong>an</strong>alysis of the impacts of c<strong>an</strong>nabis decrim<strong>in</strong>alization <strong>in</strong> Pr<strong>in</strong>ce George's County<br />

(Kozlowski et al, 2019). While the f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>gs of these articles will be taken up later <strong>in</strong> this <strong>an</strong>alysis,<br />

for this section it is the methodology that is under exam<strong>in</strong>ation. In <strong>an</strong> attempt to f<strong>in</strong>d a variable<br />

which shows statistical signific<strong>an</strong>ce when used as a lens through which to view their data, the<br />

researcher’s made what, from <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> paradigm, is a very <strong>in</strong>terest<strong>in</strong>g choice,<br />

writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“Additionally, we <strong>in</strong>cluded <strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>dicator of physical <strong>an</strong>d social disorder, measured as the<br />

proportion of all misdeme<strong>an</strong>or enforcements with<strong>in</strong> a beat-year that <strong>in</strong>volved a disorderrelated<br />

<strong>in</strong>cident.6 Lastly, we <strong>in</strong>cluded percent female headed households (<strong>in</strong> 2010) as <strong>an</strong><br />

<strong>in</strong>dicator of socioeconomic disadv<strong>an</strong>tage, measured as the percent of all beat households<br />

(with at least one dependent) that are female-headed. Four other measures of socioeconomic<br />

disadv<strong>an</strong>tage – percent unemployed, percent <strong>in</strong> poverty, percent without a high<br />

school diploma, <strong>an</strong>d percent receiv<strong>in</strong>g public assist<strong>an</strong>ce – were also considered for<br />

<strong>in</strong>clusion.<br />

However, whether as <strong>in</strong>dividual variables or collapsed <strong>in</strong>to two <strong>in</strong>dices along with female<br />

headed household, none of these four variables were statistically signific<strong>an</strong>t. The only<br />

variable that signific<strong>an</strong>tly contributed toward account<strong>in</strong>g for overall beat-level variation<br />

<strong>in</strong> mariju<strong>an</strong>a enforcement was female headed household, so we <strong>in</strong>cluded this variable as<br />

<strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>dicator of beat-level disadv<strong>an</strong>tage.” (Kozlowski et al, 2019)<br />

The idea that female headed households are a symbol of disadv<strong>an</strong>tage may have fits the short term,<br />

<strong>in</strong>strumental needs of the researchers <strong>in</strong> the movement, but given the historical context of how<br />

Black communities have been deemed <strong>in</strong>ferior because of their prevalence of female headed<br />

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households, this is a research tactic which deserves scrut<strong>in</strong>y. Politici<strong>an</strong>s <strong>an</strong>d theories such as D<strong>an</strong>iel<br />

Patrick Moynah<strong>an</strong> used <strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>alysis of female headed households as a sign of social economic<br />

disadv<strong>an</strong>tage to recommended <strong>an</strong> assimilationist politics seek<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>culcate socially appropriate<br />

patriarchal values <strong>in</strong>to the Black community, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g recommend<strong>in</strong>g more Black men be sent to<br />

war as a tool to combat this d<strong>an</strong>gerous amtriacrhical excess (Moynih<strong>an</strong>, 1965). This <strong>an</strong>alysis was<br />

roundly criticized as not only reflect<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>ti-black bias, but also fundamentally misunderst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g<br />

the family structures of people fo Afric<strong>an</strong> descent, which typically do not fit a simple, nuclear<br />

framework. Rather th<strong>an</strong> see<strong>in</strong>g the possibilities with<strong>in</strong> the extended, non-nuclear family structures<br />

with<strong>in</strong> Black communities, Moynahi<strong>an</strong> sees them as different <strong>an</strong>d therefore deficient, <strong>an</strong>d while<br />

these researchers don’t seem to share Moynah<strong>an</strong>’s views, they use similar research methodologies<br />

by embrac<strong>in</strong>g the notion of “female led households” as a salient measure of social -economic<br />

distress. While this is clearly not the <strong>in</strong>tent of the researchers, one wonders if they felt <strong>an</strong><br />

appropriate sense of urgency of f<strong>in</strong>ish<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong> alternative metric of socio- economic disadv<strong>an</strong>tage <strong>in</strong><br />

order to not risk replicat<strong>in</strong>g the pernicious myth of there be<strong>in</strong>g someth<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>herently wrong with a<br />

frame headed household. That the researchers made this choice with<strong>in</strong> the context of research<br />

related to the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s makes the choice particularly ironic, as it is the hyper <strong>in</strong>carceration of<br />

men, specifically Black men, which created the context for the predom<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>ce of female lead<br />

households <strong>in</strong> the Black community (Clear, 2010b). This historical context, as well as a potential<br />

alternative historical metric for evaluat<strong>in</strong>g the data (historical arrest rates) is ignored, <strong>an</strong>d the<br />

researchers isolated female headed households as if it was some neutral lens through which to<br />

evaluate historical socio -economic disadv<strong>an</strong>tage.<br />

<strong>Research</strong>ers around drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization have also commonly makes argumentative<br />

choices which risk limit<strong>in</strong>g the scope of political <strong>an</strong>alysis. The Hum<strong>an</strong> Rights Watch reports makes<br />

one of these choices when it chooses to focus a large chunk of its <strong>an</strong>alysis on the <strong>in</strong>nocence of the<br />

<strong>in</strong>dividuals swept up <strong>in</strong> the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s dragnets, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“Numerous <strong>in</strong>terviewees <strong>in</strong> each state we visited said they had pled guilty even though they<br />

were <strong>in</strong>nocent. M<strong>an</strong>y said they did not feel they had <strong>an</strong>y other real choice. Defend<strong>an</strong>ts,<br />

defense attorneys, judges, <strong>an</strong>d prosecutors <strong>in</strong> different jurisdictions used the l<strong>an</strong>guage of<br />

gambl<strong>in</strong>g: would the defend<strong>an</strong>t “roll the dice” <strong>an</strong>d go to trial? Most defend<strong>an</strong>ts said no,<br />

because the odds were aga<strong>in</strong>st them <strong>an</strong>d the stakes were too high.<br />

In Texas, where defense attorneys said laboratory sc<strong>an</strong>dals <strong>an</strong>d faulty roadside drug tests<br />

had raised concerns, Harris County beg<strong>an</strong> test<strong>in</strong>g drugs <strong>in</strong> possession cases that had<br />

already been closed. S<strong>in</strong>ce 2010, there have been at least 73 exonerations <strong>in</strong> Harris County<br />

for drug possession or sale where the defend<strong>an</strong>t pled guilty for someth<strong>in</strong>g that turned out<br />

not to be a crime at all. In 2015 alone, there were 42.279<br />

Of the 42 exonerees <strong>in</strong> 2015, only six were white.280 Most or all had been adjudged<br />

<strong>in</strong>digent, me<strong>an</strong><strong>in</strong>g they could not afford <strong>an</strong> attorney <strong>an</strong>d had either a public defender or<br />

<strong>an</strong>other attorney appo<strong>in</strong>ted for them. One of those attorneys, Natalie Schultz, said a<br />

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signific<strong>an</strong>t number of them were homeless.281 When the laboratory f<strong>in</strong>ally tested their<br />

drugs, it found only legal subst<strong>an</strong>ces or noth<strong>in</strong>g at all.<br />

For example, <strong>in</strong> July 2014, police arrested Isaac Dixon, 26, for possession of a subst<strong>an</strong>ce<br />

that field tested positive for Ecstasy. Two days later, Isaac pled guilty to felony drug<br />

possession <strong>an</strong>d was sentenced to 90 days <strong>in</strong> the Harris County Jail. More th<strong>an</strong> 14 months<br />

later, the subst<strong>an</strong>ce was tested by a laboratory, <strong>an</strong>d the field test was proved faulty. No<br />

drugs were found—only <strong>an</strong>tihistam<strong>in</strong>e <strong>an</strong>d caffe<strong>in</strong>e.282” (Hum<strong>an</strong> Rights Watch, 2015).<br />

The <strong>in</strong>tent here is clear enough, as the author is attempt<strong>in</strong>g to convey the reality that <strong>in</strong>nocent<br />

people are potentially subject to <strong>in</strong>carceration due to the polic<strong>in</strong>g regime under the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s.<br />

However, focus<strong>in</strong>g attention on whether <strong>in</strong>dividuals arrested for drug possession were actually <strong>in</strong><br />

possession of drugs risks obviat<strong>in</strong>g the core argument of drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization, the drug<br />

possession ought not be a crime. Call<strong>in</strong>g upon the narrative of <strong>in</strong>nocence risks mak<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

conversation harder for <strong>in</strong>dividuals who are clearly “guilty”, specifically <strong>in</strong>dividuals who might<br />

be convicted of possession with <strong>in</strong>tent to distribute or face charges related to weapons possession.<br />

John Pfaff notes that drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization risks creat<strong>in</strong>g a “Squeeze the Balloon” effect where<br />

even as states reduce penalties around drug possession, the <strong>in</strong>crease charges for crimes related to<br />

accusations of violence, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“In reality, only about 16 percent of state prisoners are serv<strong>in</strong>g time on drug charges—<br />

<strong>an</strong>d very few of them, perhaps only around 5 or 6 percent of that group, are both low level<br />

<strong>an</strong>d nonviolent. At the same time, more th<strong>an</strong> half of all people <strong>in</strong> state prisons have been<br />

convicted of a violent crime. A strategy based on decrim<strong>in</strong>aliz<strong>in</strong>g drugs will thus<br />

disappo<strong>in</strong>t—<strong>an</strong>d disappo<strong>in</strong>t signific<strong>an</strong>tly.”...<br />

At the same time, for all the talk of “low-h<strong>an</strong>g<strong>in</strong>g fruit,” there doesn’t<br />

appear to be <strong>an</strong>yone build<strong>in</strong>g ladders to pick the fruit higher up the tree.<br />

Prison reform has been on the political radar s<strong>in</strong>ce about 2000, <strong>an</strong>d it has<br />

been taken seriously s<strong>in</strong>ce about 2008; that’s somewhere between n<strong>in</strong>e <strong>an</strong>d<br />

seventeen years. Yet reform efforts are still aimed entirely at this “lowh<strong>an</strong>g<strong>in</strong>g<br />

fruit,” <strong>an</strong>d there seems to be no effort to move the discussion on to<br />

tougher issues.<br />

In fact, the situation is arguably worse that this makes it sound. It isn’t<br />

just that reform bills focus only on those convicted of nonviolent crimes,<br />

but that, as we’ve seen, reform options, such as drug diversion, often<br />

explicitly exclude those convicted of violence. Even more troubl<strong>in</strong>g, m<strong>an</strong>y<br />

states generate the political support for lessen<strong>in</strong>g property <strong>an</strong>d drug crime<br />

sentences <strong>in</strong> part by toughen<strong>in</strong>g those for violent crimes. To belabor the<br />

metaphor, far from build<strong>in</strong>g taller ladders, we seem to be burn<strong>in</strong>g the wood<br />

we need to build them. If the goal is real, subst<strong>an</strong>tial reform, this approach<br />

is untenable. The sheer volume of violent offenders <strong>in</strong> prison acts as a<br />

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arrier to deep cuts built solely on nonviolent offenders.<br />

Maybe deep reforms really aren’t the goal. Maybe the goal is merely to<br />

release prisoners who really don’t scare us, but otherwise leave th<strong>in</strong>gs<br />

untouched. That, however, doesn’t seem to match the rhetoric of<br />

tr<strong>an</strong>sformative ch<strong>an</strong>ge com<strong>in</strong>g from both the Left <strong>an</strong>d the Right.<br />

Furthermore, even if the goal is only the modest one of releas<strong>in</strong>g those who<br />

“don’t scare us,” we should still be less punitive toward m<strong>an</strong>y of those who<br />

are serv<strong>in</strong>g time for violent crimes. Our current approach to punish<strong>in</strong>g those<br />

convicted of violence is almost entirely bl<strong>in</strong>d to mounta<strong>in</strong>s of sophisticated<br />

research about violent behavior. The harsh sentences we impose on people<br />

convicted of violent crimes are not buy<strong>in</strong>g us the security we th<strong>in</strong>k they are:<br />

they <strong>in</strong>capacitate people longer th<strong>an</strong> necessary <strong>an</strong>d provide little deterrence<br />

<strong>in</strong> exch<strong>an</strong>ge. It’s a situation that begs for real reform.” (Pfaff , 2018b).<br />

When decrim<strong>in</strong>alization attempts to tactically limit its frame to non-violent drug offenders,<br />

this creates a strategic limitation to comprehensive de-<strong>in</strong>carceration. Moreover, decrim<strong>in</strong>alization<br />

advocates have often explicitly made the po<strong>in</strong>t that decrim<strong>in</strong>alization would allow more resources<br />

to focus on “more serious crimes”.<br />

“Along with ch<strong>an</strong>ges <strong>in</strong> medical mariju<strong>an</strong>a laws, more recent state-level reforms have<br />

decreased the crim<strong>in</strong>al punishments related to low-level possession or have legalized lowlevel<br />

possession altogether.S<strong>in</strong>ce 2012, when both Wash<strong>in</strong>gton <strong>an</strong>d Colorado approved<br />

legislation allow<strong>in</strong>g for adult recreational use, 10 states <strong>an</strong>d Wash<strong>in</strong>gton, D.C., have<br />

legalized small amounts of recreational mariju<strong>an</strong>a for adults (as of year-end 2018).<br />

Additionally, some states have decrim<strong>in</strong>alized or depenalized small amounts of mariju<strong>an</strong>a<br />

possession for adult recreational use (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2019).<br />

These permissive policy ch<strong>an</strong>ges of the last decade occur <strong>in</strong> stark contrast to the policies<br />

of the “War on <strong>Drug</strong>s" era of the 1980s <strong>an</strong>d early 1990s, which crim<strong>in</strong>alized drug use <strong>an</strong>d<br />

prioritized enforcement of drug offenses. Depenalization, decrim<strong>in</strong>alization, <strong>an</strong>d similarly<br />

permissive policies aim to do the opposite — reduce enforcement of low-level drug offenses<br />

<strong>in</strong> exch<strong>an</strong>ge for <strong>in</strong>creased resources to be allocated toward the prevention of more serious<br />

(e.g., violent) crimes (DeAngelo, Gitt<strong>in</strong>gs, & Ross, 2018; Mak<strong>in</strong> et al., 2019; Ross &<br />

Walker, 2016).” (Kozloski et al., 2019)<br />

Given calls to #DefundThePolice, <strong>an</strong>d the st<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g reality of racial bias <strong>in</strong> the crim<strong>in</strong>al legal<br />

system, the question of whether defacto <strong>in</strong>creas<strong>in</strong>g police resources is a desirable outcome is<br />

debatable. This is especially glar<strong>in</strong>g when contrasted with <strong>an</strong> alternative of re<strong>in</strong>vest<strong>in</strong>g this money<br />

<strong>in</strong> communities most impacted by the war on drugs, a prospect which is rarely mentioned <strong>in</strong><br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization literature even though discussion of reorient<strong>in</strong>g resources from drug<br />

enforcement to other org<strong>an</strong>s with<strong>in</strong> the polic<strong>in</strong>g apparatus.<br />

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The conversation around decrim<strong>in</strong>alization allow<strong>in</strong>g for more efficient polic<strong>in</strong>g, research<br />

around polic<strong>in</strong>g has shown the limits of this. While there is <strong>an</strong> underly<strong>in</strong>g notion that<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization is import<strong>an</strong>t because it is a “compassionate” act towards victims of crime as it<br />

would allow more police to spend less time hunt<strong>in</strong>g down drug users <strong>an</strong>d more time “protect<strong>in</strong>g<br />

them” the reality of polic<strong>in</strong>g challenges this narrative, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“The legalization of mariju<strong>an</strong>a undoubtedly resulted <strong>in</strong> the opportunity for agencies to<br />

reallocate resources, <strong>an</strong>d as mentioned earlier, the level of resources available <strong>in</strong> police<br />

agencies is one import<strong>an</strong>t org<strong>an</strong>izational factor that may <strong>in</strong>fluence clear<strong>an</strong>ce rates.<br />

Although some research f<strong>in</strong>ds little evidence of a resources-to-clear<strong>an</strong>ce rate connection<br />

(Clon<strong>in</strong>ger & Sartorius, 1979; Greenwood et al., 1975), considerable evidence does exist<br />

<strong>in</strong> the research literature that resource availability does make a difference. For example,<br />

Stolzenberg, D’Alessio, <strong>an</strong>d Eitle (2004) found that <strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>crease <strong>in</strong> the number of police<br />

officers is associated with improved clear<strong>an</strong>ce rates for violent crime. In one of the earliest<br />

studies undertaken <strong>in</strong> this area, Chaiken (1975) found that officers’ effectiveness <strong>in</strong> solv<strong>in</strong>g<br />

crime improved with the <strong>in</strong>crease <strong>in</strong> departmental resources used for crim<strong>in</strong>al<br />

<strong>in</strong>vestigation. Similarly, a more recent study conducted by Wong (2010) revealed that<br />

resources available—as measured by police expenditures—are positively associated with<br />

the clear<strong>an</strong>ce capability of the police.<br />

These studies demonstrate that police resources do matter <strong>in</strong> the provision of public safety<br />

outcomes. However, the likelihood of clear<strong>an</strong>ce of a crime is cont<strong>in</strong>gent on the availability<br />

of polic<strong>in</strong>g resources devoted to <strong>in</strong>vestigation, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g the ability to actively search for<br />

evidence <strong>an</strong>d to spend time on the development of leads (Benson, Rasmussen, & Kim, 1998;<br />

Borg, Parker, & Karen, 2001). Indeed, as Cooney (1994) has noted, police resources<br />

typically are not evenly distributed across cases even with<strong>in</strong> the same type of crime.”<br />

(Willits et al, 2018).<br />

This is <strong>an</strong> even h<strong>an</strong>ded attempt for researchers to bal<strong>an</strong>ce the literature around <strong>in</strong>creased resources<br />

help<strong>in</strong>g police clear<strong>an</strong>ce rates with discussions around the limitations of this approach. However,<br />

this <strong>an</strong>alysis would benefit greatly from apply<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong> underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of <strong>an</strong>ti-blackness <strong>an</strong>d the<br />

Afric<strong>an</strong> Centred <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong>. When the authors write “police resources typically are not<br />

evenly distributed across cases even with<strong>in</strong> the same type of crime”, they open the door to a more<br />

nu<strong>an</strong>ced underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of how decrim<strong>in</strong>alization relates to polic<strong>in</strong>g, one which po<strong>in</strong>ts to the reality<br />

that crimes <strong>in</strong>volv<strong>in</strong>g rich, respectable (read white) citizens are more vigorously <strong>in</strong>vestigated th<strong>an</strong><br />

crimes <strong>in</strong>volv<strong>in</strong>g poor, none respetable (read Black) citizens. Often researchers refuse to make<br />

po<strong>in</strong>ts like this, as they feel it make them appear non-objective <strong>in</strong> their <strong>an</strong>alysis. While this is<br />

underst<strong>an</strong>dable, <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong> underst<strong>an</strong>ds that polic<strong>in</strong>g is a life <strong>an</strong>d<br />

death issue for Black people, <strong>an</strong>d as such would believe that po<strong>in</strong>t is sufficiently import<strong>an</strong>t to<br />

warr<strong>an</strong>t <strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>alysis beyond the “both sides have a po<strong>in</strong>t” faux objectivity presented by the<br />

researchers. Indeed, to get <strong>in</strong>formation back up the claim that police resources are dolled out along<br />

racial l<strong>in</strong>es, one need only look at the text of the article the researchers are cit<strong>in</strong>g, as Coony<br />

explicitly presents race as a critical factor <strong>in</strong> the allocation of police resources, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

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Investigation also varies with the social characteristics of civil- i<strong>an</strong> victims (e.g., Simon<br />

1991:19-20). The police treat some cases as "big" or import<strong>an</strong>t <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>vestigate them <strong>in</strong><br />

considerable detail. Crimes committed aga<strong>in</strong>st high-status victims are especially likely to<br />

be treated this way (e.g., Skolnick 1966:176-77). A clear exam- ple is the assass<strong>in</strong>ation of<br />

a political leader or a media celebrity. Here <strong>in</strong>vestigation by police <strong>an</strong>d others may<br />

cont<strong>in</strong>ue for de- cades or even centuries. But the same pr<strong>in</strong>ciple applies, less dramatically,<br />

<strong>in</strong> crimes aga<strong>in</strong>st ord<strong>in</strong>ary citizens. When wealthy, re- spectable people are<br />

victimized, police are likely to seek physical evidence such as f<strong>in</strong>gerpr<strong>in</strong>ts, tire tracks, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

hair samples at the scene of the crime, <strong>in</strong>terview large numbers of potential witnesses <strong>an</strong>d<br />

<strong>in</strong>form<strong>an</strong>ts, <strong>an</strong>d conduct extensive <strong>in</strong>- terrogations, polygraph ("lie detector") tests, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

"l<strong>in</strong>e ups" (sessions at which suspects are viewed by victims or witnesses through a oneway<br />

mirror). (Black 1980:16) As the victim's social status decl<strong>in</strong>es, the probability that<br />

these <strong>in</strong>vestigatory measures will be undertaken decreases. Thus, <strong>in</strong> cases where the<br />

victims are of decidedly low status, even the most obvious <strong>in</strong>vestigative leads may not be<br />

pursued, regardless of the legal seriousness of the <strong>in</strong>cident. A study of homicide <strong>in</strong> a rural<br />

Mexic<strong>an</strong> community, where the victims are poor farmers, reports: "There is never <strong>an</strong>y<br />

question<strong>in</strong>g of suspects or attempt to solve the crime by officials" (Nash 1967:461).<br />

Similarly, m<strong>in</strong>imal <strong>in</strong>vestigation also appears to follow homicides committed on Americ<strong>an</strong><br />

Indi<strong>an</strong> reservations (Matthiessen 1991:193) <strong>an</strong>d skid row (Black 1989:6-7). In a Georgia<br />

case I observed,6 a young black m<strong>an</strong>, whom the police strongly suspected of be<strong>in</strong>g a drug<br />

dealer, shot <strong>an</strong>d killed a close friend, <strong>an</strong>other young black male also believed to be <strong>in</strong> the<br />

drug bus<strong>in</strong>ess. The killer turned him- self <strong>in</strong> to the local jail the day after the shoot<strong>in</strong>g, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

told the authorities he was prepared to make a statement to the police. Seven months later,<br />

when the case came up for trial the prosecut- <strong>in</strong>g attorney compla<strong>in</strong>ed that the <strong>in</strong>vestigat<strong>in</strong>g<br />

officer had still not taken a statement from the defend<strong>an</strong>t. Busy with other cases, the kill<strong>in</strong>g<br />

of one street-level drug dealer by <strong>an</strong>other was simply not high on the detective's list of<br />

priorities.<br />

That evidence is uncovered is no guar<strong>an</strong>tee that it will be use- ful or import<strong>an</strong>t. A<br />

considerable amount of legal strategy re- volves around exclud<strong>in</strong>g or suppress<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>in</strong>formation that is avail- able to at least one party (see, e.g., M<strong>an</strong>n 1985). However,<br />

without <strong>in</strong>vestigation legal actions are difficult to susta<strong>in</strong>. In the above case, for <strong>in</strong>st<strong>an</strong>ce,<br />

the lack of evidence resulted <strong>in</strong> the assis- t<strong>an</strong>t district attorney accept<strong>in</strong>g a plea of<br />

<strong>in</strong>voluntary m<strong>an</strong>slaugh- ter <strong>in</strong>stead of pursu<strong>in</strong>g the murder conviction he had <strong>in</strong>itially<br />

sought. Another aspect of social status affect<strong>in</strong>g the thoroughness with which cases are<br />

<strong>in</strong>vestigated is the victim's respectability. One student of police homicide <strong>in</strong>vestigators has<br />

noted that "noth<strong>in</strong>g deflates a detective more th<strong>an</strong> go<strong>in</strong>g back to the office, punch<strong>in</strong>g a<br />

victim's name <strong>in</strong>to the adm<strong>in</strong> office term<strong>in</strong>al <strong>an</strong>d pull<strong>in</strong>g out five or six computer pages of<br />

misbehavior, a crim<strong>in</strong>al history that reaches from eye level to the office floor" (Simon<br />

1991:177). But <strong>an</strong>y deviation from conventional st<strong>an</strong>dards of behavior c<strong>an</strong> weaken a<br />

victim's claim. A study of C<strong>an</strong>adi<strong>an</strong> detectives cites the follow<strong>in</strong>g two cases to illustrate<br />

this po<strong>in</strong>t.<br />

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In the first, <strong>an</strong> alleged rape, the detectives "spent five hours try<strong>in</strong>g to talk the victim <strong>in</strong>to<br />

follow<strong>in</strong>g through with her com- pla<strong>in</strong>t <strong>an</strong>d giv<strong>in</strong>g a written statement on it. ... [They]<br />

will<strong>in</strong>gly worked a cont<strong>in</strong>uous 16 hour period on this case, on behalf of a victim they<br />

characterized as 'naive' <strong>an</strong>d 'respectable' <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong> need of police assist<strong>an</strong>ce to develop <strong>an</strong>d<br />

susta<strong>in</strong> the case" (Ericson 1981:106). In the second, <strong>an</strong> alleged assault, a young m<strong>an</strong> got<br />

<strong>in</strong>to a fight while attend<strong>in</strong>g a party, receiv<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>juries which ne- cessitated him spend<strong>in</strong>g<br />

four days <strong>in</strong> hospital. The detectives spent a total of 15 m<strong>in</strong>utes on the case. After visit<strong>in</strong>g<br />

the victim <strong>in</strong> his disheveled apartment a detective commented, "Did you see the way he<br />

lives? He's probably glad he got hurt so that he had <strong>an</strong> excuse not to be work<strong>in</strong>g." Although<br />

the case was one of the most violent encountered dur<strong>in</strong>g the research, the detectives filed<br />

the case without ever contact<strong>in</strong>g the two eyewitnesses or the suspect. The reason they cited:<br />

lack of evidence (Ericson 1981:106-7). Legal officials often cite lack of evidence as a<br />

reason for the attrition of crim<strong>in</strong>al cases. Examples such as these demonstrate that the<br />

designation has <strong>an</strong> evaluative component l<strong>in</strong>ked to the social status of the parties, <strong>an</strong>d that<br />

statistical presentations which employ it tend to conta<strong>in</strong> embedded partis<strong>an</strong> effects (see,<br />

e.g., Bol<strong>an</strong>d, Mah<strong>an</strong>na, & Sones 1992:35-48). (Conney, 1994).<br />

While there may be a debate as to the role of resource allocation <strong>in</strong> aggregate impacted clear<strong>an</strong>ce<br />

rates, there does not seem to be much debate as to whether drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization will help poor,<br />

m<strong>in</strong>ority victims of crime, as these crimes are subject to the resource allocation decisions that deem<br />

their crimes less of a priority <strong>in</strong>dependent of drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. An afric<strong>an</strong> centered research<br />

paradigm would underst<strong>an</strong>d how this argument around us<strong>in</strong>g decrim<strong>in</strong>alization to protect victims<br />

of crime through polic<strong>in</strong>g deserves careful attention. Not only does the argument risk generally<br />

exp<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g the power of the carceral state, but feeds <strong>an</strong>ti-Black notions of police as benevolent<br />

<strong>in</strong>stitutions which, if only freed from the tedium of drug prohibition enforcement, could be more<br />

effective <strong>in</strong> their assimilationist mission of <strong>in</strong>culcat<strong>in</strong>g discipl<strong>in</strong>e <strong>an</strong>d respect for authority <strong>in</strong>to the<br />

Black masses. Not only does this argument not detract for the researchers core mission, it enh<strong>an</strong>ces<br />

it, as Kozlowski et al present this <strong>an</strong>alysis specifically to frame a discussion around how c<strong>an</strong>nabis<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization <strong>in</strong> Pr<strong>in</strong>ce George's County did not solve racial disparities <strong>in</strong> c<strong>an</strong>nabis<br />

enforcement, it may have created net widen<strong>in</strong>g effects with Black residents receiv<strong>in</strong>g more<br />

citations post decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. They write:<br />

“... Exam<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g arrests <strong>an</strong>d citations for mariju<strong>an</strong>a possession separately provides some<br />

evidence for the claim that crim<strong>in</strong>al citations replace arrests for mariju<strong>an</strong>a possession <strong>in</strong><br />

later <strong>an</strong>alysis years, imply<strong>in</strong>g that the 2013 shift to crim<strong>in</strong>al citations had the <strong>in</strong>tended<br />

result of reduc<strong>in</strong>g arrest rates for mariju<strong>an</strong>a possession. However, while arrests are<br />

decl<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g over the period <strong>an</strong>d citations are ris<strong>in</strong>g through 2014, we did not observe a<br />

complete displacement effect of arrests to citations. This po<strong>in</strong>t is best illustrated by<br />

exam<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g the total enforcement rates dur<strong>in</strong>g the period. If mariju<strong>an</strong>a possession arrests<br />

were simply be<strong>in</strong>g replaced with crim<strong>in</strong>al citations (<strong>in</strong> 2013-2014), then we would expect<br />

the total enforcement rate to rema<strong>in</strong> stable or decl<strong>in</strong>e over this period. However, the<br />

opposite is true. Consider<strong>in</strong>g all county beats, the total enforcement rate steadily <strong>in</strong>creased<br />

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from a low of 2.49 per 1,000 <strong>in</strong> 2010, to a peak of 5.87 per 1,000 <strong>in</strong> 2014, the second (<strong>an</strong>d<br />

last) year of implementation of crim<strong>in</strong>al citations for possession of less th<strong>an</strong> 10 grams.<br />

We see a similar pattern for high frequency beats, though the peak average total<br />

enforcement rate (7.34 per 1,000) occurred one year earlier <strong>in</strong> 2013, the first year of<br />

implementation of crim<strong>in</strong>al citations. The most dramatic impact on arrests <strong>an</strong>d total<br />

enforcement rates came later, <strong>in</strong> 2015, the first full year of implementation allow<strong>in</strong>g civil<br />

citations for possession of less th<strong>an</strong> 10 grams...<br />

One possible expl<strong>an</strong>ation for the divergent trends <strong>in</strong> arrests <strong>an</strong>d crim<strong>in</strong>al citations draws<br />

on the concept of substitution or replacement effects. That is, <strong>in</strong>dividuals who were arrested<br />

for mariju<strong>an</strong>a possession of less th<strong>an</strong> 10 grams <strong>in</strong> the pre-ch<strong>an</strong>ge period (2010-2012)<br />

would <strong>in</strong>stead be crim<strong>in</strong>ally cited (start<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> 2013). However, consider<strong>in</strong>g the overall<br />

<strong>in</strong>crease <strong>in</strong> total mariju<strong>an</strong>a possession enforcement rates (arrests <strong>an</strong>d citations comb<strong>in</strong>ed),<br />

dur<strong>in</strong>g the period between 2010 <strong>an</strong>d 2014 (as shown <strong>in</strong> Table 2),<br />

it appears that the addition of crim<strong>in</strong>al citations as <strong>an</strong> enforcement option for lower-level<br />

mariju<strong>an</strong>a offenses had a net-widen<strong>in</strong>g effect. That is, <strong>in</strong>dividuals who previously received<br />

no enforcement (or received <strong>an</strong> unofficial s<strong>an</strong>ction, like a warn<strong>in</strong>g) for low-level<br />

possession of mariju<strong>an</strong>a were then (<strong>in</strong> 2013-2014) issued crim<strong>in</strong>al citations. Therefore, <strong>in</strong><br />

addition to replacement effects (that are likely occurr<strong>in</strong>g for some fraction of the<br />

enforcement population), arrests rema<strong>in</strong> relatively stable over the period while citations<br />

are <strong>in</strong>creas<strong>in</strong>g, result<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> a greater number of total possession-related enforcements<br />

dur<strong>in</strong>g the two-year period of crim<strong>in</strong>al citations.” (Kozlowski et al, 2018)<br />

A more comprehensive underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of <strong>an</strong>ti-Blackness would add to the researcher’s<br />

f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>gs, as it would help expla<strong>in</strong> the social context which might produce a net widen<strong>in</strong>g result <strong>in</strong><br />

light of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. Despite this reticence, the researcher’s do <strong>in</strong>corporate some <strong>an</strong>alysis of<br />

<strong>an</strong>ti-blackness <strong>in</strong>to their “objective”, “data centric” approach, not<strong>in</strong>g that, even account<strong>in</strong>g for<br />

racism <strong>an</strong>d bias aga<strong>in</strong>st Lat<strong>in</strong>x peoples, the net widen<strong>in</strong>g effects specifically are seen <strong>in</strong> Black<br />

communities, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“Proximity to Wash<strong>in</strong>gton, D.C., is also positively related to the 2014 mariju<strong>an</strong>a<br />

enforcement rate, suggest<strong>in</strong>g that beats adjacent to Wash<strong>in</strong>gton, D.C., had higher rates of<br />

mariju<strong>an</strong>a enforcement. We elaborate on this f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> two ways. First, Pr<strong>in</strong>ce George’s<br />

County wraps around the northeast <strong>an</strong>d southeast borders of Wash<strong>in</strong>gton, D.C., which<br />

conta<strong>in</strong> some of the city’s most disadv<strong>an</strong>taged communities.<br />

Second, the numerator of our outcome measure <strong>in</strong>cludes D.C. residents who were subject<br />

to enforcement by PGPD (the census data used for the denom<strong>in</strong>ator does not <strong>in</strong>clude D.C.<br />

residents). In 2014 specifically, D.C. residents accounted for approximately 16% of all<br />

mariju<strong>an</strong>a possession arrests <strong>an</strong>d 12% of all mariju<strong>an</strong>a possession citations. So, the<br />

positive relationship between D.C. proximity <strong>an</strong>d mariju<strong>an</strong>a possession enforcement rate<br />

may be partially attributable to the greater presence of D.C. residents who are subjected<br />

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to arrest or citation <strong>in</strong> those beats.10 Proportion Hisp<strong>an</strong>ic is negatively related to the 2014<br />

mariju<strong>an</strong>a enforcement rate, <strong>in</strong>dicat<strong>in</strong>g that beats with higher proportions of Hisp<strong>an</strong>ic<br />

residents have lower rates of mariju<strong>an</strong>a possession enforcement. Interest<strong>in</strong>gly, there is<br />

subst<strong>an</strong>tial overlap between the<br />

few beats with high Hisp<strong>an</strong>ic populations <strong>an</strong>d D.C. adjacent beats. The negative coefficient<br />

for proportion Hisp<strong>an</strong>ic <strong>in</strong>dicates that, despite their proximity to D.C. (positively<br />

associated with enforcement rates), beats with higher concentrations of Hisp<strong>an</strong>ic residents<br />

have a lower enforcement rate, all else be<strong>in</strong>g equal. (ibid).<br />

The research <strong>in</strong>dicates that, <strong>in</strong> predom<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>tly Black Pr<strong>in</strong>ce George’s county, the net widen<strong>in</strong>g<br />

effects are concentrated <strong>in</strong> the most disadv<strong>an</strong>taged neighborhoods Near Wash<strong>in</strong>gton D.C., but not<br />

the Lat<strong>in</strong>x neighborhoods. The researchers, however, do not state the logical conclusion of this<br />

<strong>an</strong>alysis, that the potential net widen<strong>in</strong>g effects are driven specifically by polic<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> poor, Black<br />

communities. Kozlowski et al are do<strong>in</strong>g research related to decrim<strong>in</strong>alization <strong>in</strong> <strong>Maryl<strong>an</strong>d</strong> <strong>an</strong>d<br />

engage <strong>in</strong> deep, qu<strong>an</strong>titative <strong>an</strong>alysis around the implications of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g its<br />

potential to <strong>in</strong>advertently <strong>in</strong>crease some racial disparities. As such few articles are more potentially<br />

useful for <strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>alysis of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization of drugs <strong>in</strong> <strong>Maryl<strong>an</strong>d</strong>. These criticisms are not to<br />

dim<strong>in</strong>ish the reports f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>gs, it is to attempt to outl<strong>in</strong>e how subsequent research efforts could<br />

exp<strong>an</strong>d upon their work to <strong>in</strong>corporate <strong>an</strong> explicit <strong>an</strong>alysis of <strong>an</strong>ti-blackness <strong>an</strong>d create even more<br />

productive research f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>gs via utiliz<strong>in</strong>g a Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong>.<br />

The research <strong>in</strong>dicates that racial disparities exist<strong>in</strong>g post decrim<strong>in</strong>alization c<strong>an</strong> be found<br />

beyond Pr<strong>in</strong>ce George's county. Tr<strong>an</strong> et al f<strong>in</strong>d similar levels of specifically Anti-Black polic<strong>in</strong>g<br />

post decrim<strong>in</strong>alization <strong>in</strong> Philadelphia, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“Mariju<strong>an</strong>a arrest rates were high among Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong>s prior to decrim<strong>in</strong>alization.<br />

We found that Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong>s experienced greater absolute reduction <strong>in</strong> arrest rates<br />

once mariju<strong>an</strong>a possession was reclassified as a civil offense compared to Whites;<br />

however, arrest rate disparities, specifically for sales/m<strong>an</strong>ufactur<strong>in</strong>g, <strong>in</strong>creased<br />

betweenAfric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong>s <strong>an</strong>d Whites. For <strong>in</strong>st<strong>an</strong>ce, relative reduction for<br />

sales/m<strong>an</strong>ufactur<strong>in</strong>g-based arrest rates was nearly 3 times lower for Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong>s<br />

th<strong>an</strong> their White counterparts after decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. This is similar to recent work<br />

document<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>creases <strong>in</strong> relative arrest rate disparities despite decreases <strong>in</strong> absolute<br />

disparities follow<strong>in</strong>gmariju<strong>an</strong>a legalization between Whites <strong>an</strong>d Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong>s<br />

(Firthet al., 2019).There are two possible rationales that may expla<strong>in</strong> the differential<br />

patterns <strong>in</strong> arrest rates by race. One rationale is that our data do not reflect actual law<br />

enforcement behaviors, particularly biases <strong>in</strong> the crim<strong>in</strong>al justice system, that would<br />

contribute to the cont<strong>in</strong>ual dis-parities <strong>in</strong> arrest rates (Gelm<strong>an</strong> et al., 2007; Milner et al.,<br />

2016; Mitchell<strong>an</strong>d Caudy, 2015;Ulmer et al., 2016). This may expla<strong>in</strong>, <strong>in</strong> part, how Afric<strong>an</strong><br />

Americ<strong>an</strong>s cont<strong>in</strong>ue to be unfairly targeted by law enforcement officers relative to White<br />

<strong>in</strong>dividuals. However, recent work suggests that perceptions around polic<strong>in</strong>g of small drug<br />

use <strong>an</strong>d purchases are ch<strong>an</strong>g<strong>in</strong>g among law enforcement officers (Rouh<strong>an</strong>i et al., 2019).<br />

Theother rationale posits that arrest rates disparities may be partially expla<strong>in</strong>ed by<br />

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differential purchas<strong>in</strong>g patterns that place Afric<strong>an</strong>s Americ<strong>an</strong>s at greater risk for arrest,<br />

<strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g purchas<strong>in</strong>g mariju<strong>an</strong>a out-doors, from str<strong>an</strong>gers, <strong>an</strong>d far from their homes<br />

(Ramch<strong>an</strong>d et al.,2006). These hypotheses, however, require further evaluation to disent<strong>an</strong>gle<br />

the mech<strong>an</strong>isms contribut<strong>in</strong>g to the persistent arrest rate dis-parities between<br />

Whites <strong>an</strong>d Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong>s.Our results also suggest differential impact of<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization by sex. Males experienced greater absolute/relative reduction for<br />

possession-based arrests, but females appear to experience a higher relative reduction for<br />

sales/m<strong>an</strong>ufactur<strong>in</strong>g, which the percent decl<strong>in</strong>e among females was twice as much as it<br />

was among males. This heterogeneity of effect may, <strong>in</strong> part, be a result of the preexist<strong>in</strong>g<br />

gender differences <strong>in</strong> arrest rates prior to decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. Females had <strong>an</strong> overall lower<br />

arrest rate before mariju<strong>an</strong>a decrim<strong>in</strong>alization, thus, <strong>an</strong>y decl<strong>in</strong>es <strong>in</strong> arrest rates, even<br />

small ones, c<strong>an</strong> result <strong>in</strong> a large relative reduction.Further exploration of gender-based<br />

differences follow<strong>in</strong>g decrim<strong>in</strong>alization is warr<strong>an</strong>ted.F<strong>in</strong>ally, the impact of<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization appears to be somewhat similar across age groups. This is congruent<br />

with prior work to show that decrim<strong>in</strong>alization policies lead to signific<strong>an</strong>tly lower rates of<br />

pos-session-based arrest (up to 75%) for both adults <strong>an</strong>d youths (Plunket al., 2019). Our<br />

research, however, further extends prior work to show that, even though absolute<br />

differences may be similar between age groups, there were relative differences for<br />

sales/m<strong>an</strong>ufactur<strong>in</strong>g-based arrest rates by up to <strong>an</strong> order of 3-folds. It has been speculated<br />

that law enforcement officers may compensate for their <strong>in</strong>ability to arrest youths for<br />

mariju<strong>an</strong>a possession by arrest<strong>in</strong>g them more frequently for mar-iju<strong>an</strong>a<br />

sales/m<strong>an</strong>ufactur<strong>in</strong>g (i.e., possession with <strong>in</strong>tent to distribute) (Smart <strong>an</strong>d Kleim<strong>an</strong>, 2019).<br />

This was not supported by our data. In fact, sales/m<strong>an</strong>ufactur<strong>in</strong>g-based arrest rates did not<br />

<strong>in</strong>crease follow<strong>in</strong>g mariju<strong>an</strong>a decrim<strong>in</strong>alization for <strong>an</strong>y of the demographic groups <strong>in</strong> our<br />

<strong>an</strong>alyses.” (Tr<strong>an</strong> et al, 2020).<br />

This article, published this month, shows how the field of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization research is const<strong>an</strong>tly<br />

evolv<strong>in</strong>g, but hav<strong>in</strong>g a conceptual underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of <strong>an</strong>ti-Blackness c<strong>an</strong> be useful to provide a frame<br />

through while to view <strong>an</strong>d process this evolv<strong>in</strong>g literature base.<br />

Tr<strong>an</strong> et al also raise <strong>an</strong> import<strong>an</strong>t, though often overlooked, demographic component with<strong>in</strong><br />

research, the import<strong>an</strong>ce when possible of disaggregat<strong>in</strong>g data between Black men <strong>an</strong>d Black<br />

women. An Afric<strong>an</strong> centered research paradigm underst<strong>an</strong>ds that white supremacy impacts Black<br />

men <strong>an</strong>d Black women differently, <strong>an</strong>d this disaggregation seeks to acquire more specificity with<strong>in</strong><br />

its <strong>an</strong>alysis around how gender impacts drug policy. As Tr<strong>an</strong> et al, as well as a bevy of others po<strong>in</strong>t<br />

out, drug policy has specifically, though not exclusively, targeted Black men, <strong>an</strong>d it import<strong>an</strong>t that<br />

disparity <strong>an</strong>alysis be supplemented with meta level <strong>an</strong>alysis show<strong>in</strong>g no only how policy ch<strong>an</strong>ges<br />

create disparities between white <strong>an</strong>d Black communities, but also centered communities most<br />

impacted by these policies. While, as previously stated, these policies impact the entire Black<br />

community, Black men appeared to particularly be targeted by these forms of polic<strong>in</strong>g. This is<br />

import<strong>an</strong>t, as the current trend toward “<strong>in</strong>tersectional” <strong>an</strong>alysis has at times attempted, laudably,<br />

to centre a diversity of marg<strong>in</strong>alized groups, specifically show<strong>in</strong>g disparities between black women<br />

<strong>an</strong>d white women to show how Black women’s experiences differ from white womens. While this<br />

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is import<strong>an</strong>t, it is also import<strong>an</strong>t to be <strong>an</strong>alytically precise by po<strong>in</strong>t<strong>in</strong>g out that Black men are the<br />

most impacted by War on <strong>Drug</strong>s polic<strong>in</strong>g. In fact, m<strong>an</strong>y scholars have po<strong>in</strong>ted out that this violence<br />

should be theorized through <strong>an</strong> “<strong>in</strong>tersectional” lens <strong>an</strong>d be seen as <strong>an</strong>ti-Black mis<strong>an</strong>dry, a specific<br />

form of gendered violence which targets Black men for their rmale gender (Curry, 2017). This is<br />

a logical extension of the <strong>an</strong>alysis of Karam, Netherl<strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>d Hass<strong>an</strong>, as<br />

a. The Black male subject is seen as specifically d<strong>an</strong>gerous <strong>in</strong> the midst of their drug<br />

<strong>in</strong>toxication <strong>in</strong> light of a perceived physical <strong>an</strong>d cultural aff<strong>in</strong>ity for violence<br />

And<br />

b. The fear of miscegenation, from historical lynch<strong>in</strong>gs to contemporary fears of “drug dealers<br />

com<strong>in</strong>g to the suburbs” has specifically been targeted at the fears of Black men<br />

impregnat<strong>in</strong>g white women.<br />

These po<strong>in</strong>ts are raised not to dim<strong>in</strong>ish <strong>an</strong>y carceral violence targeted towards Black tr<strong>an</strong>s people<br />

or Black women. It is <strong>in</strong>cluded to address what Curry <strong>an</strong>d other have seen as a underst<strong>an</strong>dable but<br />

none the less <strong>an</strong>alytically imprecise tendency <strong>in</strong> research on Black people, a belief that fidelity to<br />

“<strong>in</strong>tersectionality” me<strong>an</strong>s you must show how m<strong>an</strong>y issue impacts Black people evenly, or even<br />

to focus on the harms towards Black women <strong>an</strong>d Black tr<strong>an</strong>s under the misled assumption the<br />

<strong>in</strong>tersectionality the Black women <strong>an</strong>d Black tr<strong>an</strong>s are always, already the most impacted by <strong>an</strong>y<br />

particular issue. A more nu<strong>an</strong>ced <strong>an</strong>d precise application of <strong>in</strong>tersectional <strong>an</strong>alysis, one more<br />

accurately reflected with<strong>in</strong> data on the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s <strong>an</strong>d drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization literature, is to<br />

<strong>in</strong>clude Black male gender as a itself <strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>tersectional frame <strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>alysis policy with<strong>in</strong> the<br />

historical underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g that Black men have be<strong>in</strong>g specifically targeted for discrim<strong>in</strong>ation <strong>an</strong>d<br />

violence speifically because they are Black <strong>an</strong>d male. While some conceptions of <strong>in</strong>tersectionality<br />

<strong>in</strong>corporate a simplistic assumption that patriarchy dictates men are always the beneficiaries of<br />

privilege <strong>an</strong>d never the victims of it, <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong> <strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> paradigm challenges this<br />

assumption <strong>an</strong>d correctes places <strong>an</strong>ti--Black mis<strong>an</strong>dry with<strong>in</strong> its research methodology.<br />

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Part III. <strong>Recommendations</strong> <strong>an</strong>d Suggestions for Future <strong>Research</strong><br />

An import<strong>an</strong>t prerequisite to establish<strong>in</strong>g a research paradigm <strong>an</strong>d strategy to study<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization is to def<strong>in</strong>e the scope <strong>an</strong>d def<strong>in</strong>ition of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. Jord<strong>an</strong> Blair Woods<br />

uses <strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>alysis of the decrim<strong>in</strong>alization of certa<strong>in</strong> traffic offenses to argue that decrim<strong>in</strong>alization<br />

advocates often have a narrow focus on crim<strong>in</strong>al s<strong>an</strong>ctions, fail<strong>in</strong>g to address fundamental<br />

questions of polic<strong>in</strong>g authority. In his conclusion, he offers <strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>terest<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>alysis on how<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization should be evaluated, question<strong>in</strong>g whether “cost benefit <strong>an</strong>alysis” should be the<br />

operative frame for evaluat<strong>in</strong>g decrim<strong>in</strong>alization police, writ<strong>in</strong>g<br />

“It is difficult to propose bright-l<strong>in</strong>e rules or methodologies about when legislative<br />

judgments will weigh <strong>in</strong> favor of restrict<strong>in</strong>g police authority <strong>an</strong>d discretion dur<strong>in</strong>g<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization efforts because of the diversity of contextual factors at play. Limit<strong>in</strong>g<br />

police authority <strong>an</strong>d discretion aga<strong>in</strong>st the backdrop of decrim<strong>in</strong>alized traffic offenses<br />

might be viewed as pos<strong>in</strong>g qualitatively <strong>an</strong>d qu<strong>an</strong>titatively different harms <strong>an</strong>d costs to<br />

civili<strong>an</strong>s <strong>an</strong>d to the state th<strong>an</strong> does restrict<strong>in</strong>g police authority <strong>an</strong>d discretion aga<strong>in</strong>st the<br />

backdrop of other decrim<strong>in</strong>alized offenses. Further, even if a cost-benefit <strong>an</strong>alysis weighs<br />

<strong>in</strong> favor of not restrict<strong>in</strong>g police authority <strong>an</strong>d discretion <strong>in</strong> specific contexts, the extent to<br />

which cost-benefit paradigms should def<strong>in</strong>e the scope of <strong>in</strong>dividual protections (whether<br />

constitutional or statutory) <strong>in</strong> polic<strong>in</strong>g contexts is debatable.398 There may be certa<strong>in</strong><br />

civili<strong>an</strong> harms stemm<strong>in</strong>g from polic<strong>in</strong>g that laws <strong>an</strong>d doctr<strong>in</strong>e should not tolerate or<br />

encourage, even when that approach is viewed as not cost-efficient (especially to the state).<br />

Regardless of methodological choice, approach<strong>in</strong>g decrim<strong>in</strong>alization as a process that<br />

implicates more th<strong>an</strong> crim<strong>in</strong>al s<strong>an</strong>ctions encourages deeper <strong>an</strong>d more systematic<br />

conversations about polic<strong>in</strong>g costs <strong>an</strong>d fairness <strong>in</strong> situations <strong>in</strong>volv<strong>in</strong>g decrim<strong>in</strong>alized<br />

conduct. In focus<strong>in</strong>g on s<strong>an</strong>ctions, narrower accounts of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization do not offer<br />

me<strong>an</strong><strong>in</strong>gful frameworks to evaluate the full scope of these polic<strong>in</strong>g matters, regardless of<br />

whether lawmakers <strong>an</strong>d other crim<strong>in</strong>al justice actors ultimately conclude that they weigh<br />

<strong>in</strong> favor of susta<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g police authority <strong>an</strong>d discretion.” (Woods, 2014).<br />

Even if preserv<strong>in</strong>g some police authority could have some positive effects, Woods offers the<br />

possibility that the potential harm of racialized violence through police traffic stops warr<strong>an</strong>ts a<br />

more comprehensive reduction of police authority through <strong>an</strong> exp<strong>an</strong>ded conception of<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. He also notes that even after decrim<strong>in</strong>alization, police stops cont<strong>in</strong>ued , as<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization had so deeply focused on whether the driver would receive a crim<strong>in</strong>al or civil<br />

s<strong>an</strong>ction from traffic violations, that they did not address the authority police have to pull people<br />

over <strong>in</strong> the first place. It is useful to remember Akbar’s assertion that there is a dom<strong>in</strong>o effect<br />

<strong>in</strong>volved <strong>in</strong> research, with the underly<strong>in</strong>g assumptions determ<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g the methodology pursued to<br />

collect data, which then determ<strong>in</strong>es the conclusions researchers achieve through evaluat<strong>in</strong>g their<br />

data. If decrim<strong>in</strong>alization is seen as a primarily legalistic process of ch<strong>an</strong>g<strong>in</strong>g the legal s<strong>an</strong>ction<strong>in</strong>g<br />

related to the crim<strong>in</strong>al legal system, more fundamental questions around the nature of punishment<br />

<strong>an</strong>d power risk be<strong>in</strong>g obscured:<br />

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“As this example illustrates, the crim<strong>in</strong>al justice process entails much more th<strong>an</strong><br />

s<strong>an</strong>ction<strong>in</strong>g wrongdo<strong>in</strong>g. Along l<strong>in</strong>e of sociological <strong>an</strong>d crim<strong>in</strong>al justice literature<br />

describes the crim<strong>in</strong>al justice process along a spectrum <strong>in</strong>volv<strong>in</strong>g complementary<br />

<strong>in</strong>stitutions of social control (for example, police, courts, <strong>an</strong>d corrections)” <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

follow<strong>in</strong>g stages: crime is detected or reported, police <strong>in</strong>vestigate <strong>an</strong>d arrest suspects,<br />

suspects make court appear<strong>an</strong>ces, claims of <strong>in</strong>nocence <strong>an</strong>d guilt are adjudicated, <strong>an</strong>d the<br />

guilty are punished (the so-called “s<strong>an</strong>ction<strong>in</strong>g" stage).11 Even though s<strong>an</strong>ction<strong>in</strong>g is only<br />

one stage <strong>in</strong> this progression, it dom<strong>in</strong>ates discussions about decrim<strong>in</strong>alization.<br />

If decrim<strong>in</strong>alization proponents take their normative commitments seriously, then<br />

modify<strong>in</strong>g s<strong>an</strong>ctions should represent only the beg<strong>in</strong>n<strong>in</strong>g of the decrim<strong>in</strong>alizafion process.<br />

S<strong>an</strong>ction-focused approaches to decrim<strong>in</strong>alization fail to capture the harms to civili<strong>an</strong>s<br />

<strong>an</strong>d to the state that formal <strong>in</strong>stitutions of social control impose at earlier stages of the<br />

crim<strong>in</strong>al justice process. This Article focuses on one formal <strong>in</strong>stitution of social control<br />

with a central role <strong>in</strong> the crim<strong>in</strong>al jusfice process: law enforcement.” I argue that<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization ought to <strong>in</strong>volve not only modify<strong>in</strong>g the s<strong>an</strong>ctions that attach to<br />

particular k<strong>in</strong>ds of conduct but also modify<strong>in</strong>g the ways law enforcement entities police<br />

that conduct.<br />

S<strong>an</strong>ction-focused approaches to decrim<strong>in</strong>alization have perpetuated the idea that the chief<br />

goal of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization is to reduce or to elim<strong>in</strong>ate punishment. But this view is much<br />

too narrow. Advocates of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization should exp<strong>an</strong>d their view <strong>an</strong>d attend to the<br />

multitude of ways <strong>in</strong> which diffus<strong>in</strong>g different types of social control—<strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g<br />

punishment—might be made possible.” (ibid)<br />

It is import<strong>an</strong>t that researchers exp<strong>an</strong>d the frame for decrim<strong>in</strong>alization beyond the nature<br />

of formal s<strong>an</strong>ction<strong>in</strong>g, as the reality of the legal system complicates the assumed clear divided<br />

crim<strong>in</strong>al between the civil <strong>an</strong>d crim<strong>in</strong>al realms. Just as crim<strong>in</strong>al law serves a social function of of<br />

“blam<strong>in</strong>g”, decrim<strong>in</strong>alization must not assume that civil punishments would absolve marg<strong>in</strong>alized<br />

populations from stereotypes which subject them to <strong>in</strong>creased risk of polic<strong>in</strong>g, as Woods<br />

cont<strong>in</strong>ues:<br />

“By advocat<strong>in</strong>g for decrim<strong>in</strong>alization approaches that <strong>in</strong>clude both formal s<strong>an</strong>ctions <strong>an</strong>d<br />

restrictions on police authority, I am not argu<strong>in</strong>g that civil-crim<strong>in</strong>al classifications should<br />

categorically govern the scope of statutory or constitutional rights <strong>in</strong> all contexts. At the<br />

same time, accept<strong>in</strong>g the notion that there is no me<strong>an</strong><strong>in</strong>gful difference between the crim<strong>in</strong>al<br />

<strong>an</strong>d civil realms would render decrim<strong>in</strong>alization a me<strong>an</strong><strong>in</strong>gless process. Rather th<strong>an</strong><br />

ab<strong>an</strong>don<strong>in</strong>g the entire idea of a civil-crim<strong>in</strong>al l<strong>in</strong>e, it makes more sense to engage <strong>in</strong> deeper<br />

conversations about the contexts <strong>in</strong> which civil-crim<strong>in</strong>al classifications do me<strong>an</strong><strong>in</strong>gful<br />

work to reduce social control, <strong>an</strong>d the contexts <strong>in</strong> which they do not (or <strong>in</strong> which other<br />

types of dist<strong>in</strong>ctions do more me<strong>an</strong><strong>in</strong>gful work).377 In one <strong>in</strong>sightful attempt to resuscitate<br />

the crim<strong>in</strong>al-civil dist<strong>in</strong>ction, Carol Steiker has argued that crim<strong>in</strong>al punishment operates<br />

as a dist<strong>in</strong>ctive “blam<strong>in</strong>g” mech<strong>an</strong>ism.378 Based on this view, she posits that a special<br />

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procedural regime for crim<strong>in</strong>al cases is necessary to limit the state’s ability to resort to<br />

blam<strong>in</strong>g through punishment, especially aga<strong>in</strong>st political enemies <strong>an</strong>d m<strong>in</strong>orities <strong>in</strong> a<br />

state.379<br />

Exp<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g conversations about decrim<strong>in</strong>alization to capture restrictions on police<br />

authority <strong>an</strong>d discretion <strong>in</strong> a more coherent way broadens this <strong>in</strong>quiry to consider how <strong>in</strong><br />

today’s polic<strong>in</strong>g era, “blam<strong>in</strong>g” through punishment is not the only way that the state<br />

controls, stigmatizes, <strong>an</strong>d condemns its political enemies or m<strong>in</strong>orities. Rather, police<br />

authority <strong>an</strong>d discretion are also key sources of control, stigma, <strong>an</strong>d condemnation. As the<br />

previous discussion has highlighted, the harmful <strong>an</strong>d disempower<strong>in</strong>g consequences of<br />

police discretion c<strong>an</strong> take force aga<strong>in</strong>st members of different m<strong>in</strong>ority communities<br />

regardless of whether crim<strong>in</strong>al punishment is ever applied. For <strong>in</strong>st<strong>an</strong>ce, police discretion<br />

facilitates <strong>an</strong>d perpetuates stereotypes that put tr<strong>an</strong>sgender women—especially<br />

tr<strong>an</strong>sgender women of color—at risk of be<strong>in</strong>g perceived as sex workers by the police<br />

whenever they walk <strong>in</strong> public.380 In addition, police discretion dur<strong>in</strong>g the “war on drugs”<br />

over the past few decades, <strong>an</strong>d the more recent “war on terror,” has facilitated <strong>an</strong>d<br />

perpetuated stereotypes that force m<strong>an</strong>y members of m<strong>in</strong>ority communities—especially<br />

young men of color—to live with the everyday stigma of be<strong>in</strong>g perceived as “suspicious”<br />

by others.”(ibid).<br />

Woods presents some of the clear <strong>an</strong>alysis of the limitations of critical elements of the st<strong>an</strong>dard<br />

model of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. Includ<strong>in</strong>g a deeper <strong>an</strong>alysis of Anti-Blackness, <strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>alysis of the<br />

net widen<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>alysis from the previous section of this report, it appears possible that<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization c<strong>an</strong> present new avenues for <strong>an</strong>ti-Black bias to m<strong>an</strong>ifest itself. Thus, the first<br />

<strong>an</strong>d most salient recommendation this report presents is that, <strong>in</strong> order to pursue research which<br />

most effectively reflects a comprehensive underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g Anti-Blackness <strong>an</strong>d reflects <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong><br />

<strong>Centered</strong> <strong>Research</strong> <strong>Paradigm</strong>, the research must have as one of its underly<strong>in</strong>g assumption a desire<br />

not merely to study decrim<strong>in</strong>alization of drugs, but to place its <strong>an</strong>alysis of decrim<strong>in</strong>aliz<strong>in</strong>g drug<br />

with<strong>in</strong> a larger context of seek<strong>in</strong>g decrim<strong>in</strong>alize the social communal life of marg<strong>in</strong>alized<br />

communities, specifically people of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent. This f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g has implications for the research<br />

methodology <strong>an</strong>d policy recommendations stemm<strong>in</strong>g from drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization research.<br />

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<strong>Recommendations</strong><br />

We have created this document to serve as <strong>an</strong> example of how to apply <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong>-centered<br />

research paradigm. It is undertaken with the underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g that the methodology used <strong>in</strong> this paper<br />

may not be entirely applicable to future research, given the unique experiences of the author, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

this <strong>in</strong>formation is conveyed with the hope that this research will <strong>in</strong>spire future researchers to<br />

<strong>in</strong>corporate elements of this process <strong>in</strong>to their underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>d methodology. It is difficult to<br />

reduce <strong>an</strong> evolv<strong>in</strong>g underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of how to approach research to discrete recommendations.<br />

However, this section will attempt to distill our f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>gs <strong>in</strong>to specific observations <strong>an</strong>d suggestions<br />

for future researchers. Operat<strong>in</strong>g on the underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g that this is not presented as a def<strong>in</strong>itive or<br />

exhaustive list of “requirements” but as <strong>an</strong> attempt to clarify how our f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>gs up to this po<strong>in</strong>t<br />

could be applied to future research.<br />

It is import<strong>an</strong>t to be precise <strong>in</strong> underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g that, though every research project document<br />

will likely be engaged by a variety of <strong>in</strong>dividuals <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>stitutions, researchers should be clear <strong>in</strong><br />

whom they see as their audience. Based on the f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>gs of a prelim<strong>in</strong>ary conversation, advocacy<br />

org<strong>an</strong>izations are likely to be a key audience for this project. As such, the <strong>in</strong>formation must be<br />

presented <strong>in</strong> a way that is easily accessible <strong>an</strong>d shareable. This lends itself to a more narrative<br />

model <strong>an</strong>d less towards a data-centric, academic-style form of presentation. It is import<strong>an</strong>t,<br />

however, that researchers not assume that the primary benefit of their research is to <strong>in</strong>form<br />

advocates on best practices around drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. Whether <strong>in</strong>tentional or not, the<br />

decisions made by researchers on what to center conceptually serves as forms of messag<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>d<br />

media. Present<strong>in</strong>g to the audience a theory on how to frame debates <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>terpret <strong>in</strong>formation.<br />

Netherl<strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>d Hass<strong>an</strong> comment on this po<strong>in</strong>t <strong>in</strong> the conclusion of their report, not<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“Racial <strong>an</strong>d ethnic <strong>in</strong>equalities are symbolically imbedded <strong>in</strong> U.S. popular <strong>an</strong>d political<br />

cultures as well as medic<strong>in</strong>e <strong>an</strong>d are reliably <strong>an</strong>d imperceptibly reproduced <strong>in</strong> U.S.<br />

<strong>in</strong>stitutional practices. Specific <strong>in</strong>terventions are required to counterbal<strong>an</strong>ce their hold on<br />

drug policy. If policy <strong>an</strong>d cl<strong>in</strong>ical responses to addiction are to be racially <strong>in</strong>clusive, a<br />

racial/ethnic impact assessment is one way to predict <strong>an</strong>d document the effects of health<br />

policies <strong>an</strong>d cl<strong>in</strong>ical practices on racial <strong>an</strong>d ethnic <strong>in</strong>equalities. Racial ethnic impact<br />

statements have been implemented <strong>in</strong> a few states, such as Iowa <strong>an</strong>d Connecticut, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

proposed <strong>in</strong> others, such as New York (London 2011; Mauer 2009). They require<br />

policymakers to conduct a formal assessment of how a specific policy proposal is likely to<br />

ameliorate or exacerbate racial disparities, particularly <strong>in</strong> the crim<strong>in</strong>al justice system.<br />

These statements, modeled on fiscal <strong>an</strong>d environmental impact statements, are me<strong>an</strong>t to<br />

avoid policies that purport to be colorbl<strong>in</strong>d or race neutral but, <strong>in</strong> fact, result <strong>in</strong> differential<br />

treatment. These policy assessments could go a long way <strong>in</strong> heighten<strong>in</strong>g public awareness<br />

of the ways that racism is <strong>in</strong>stitutionally re<strong>in</strong>forced...<br />

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Our study of media portrayals of race <strong>an</strong>d opioids po<strong>in</strong>ts to the critical role of racialized<br />

imagery <strong>an</strong>d narratives <strong>in</strong> generat<strong>in</strong>g public support for disparate policy responses <strong>in</strong> drug<br />

control. The extent of unmarked, naturalized discourses of white deservedness <strong>an</strong>d<br />

hum<strong>an</strong>ity <strong>in</strong> the face of opioid addiction <strong>in</strong>dicates the degree to which racially disparate<br />

drug laws require extensive cultural work to justify <strong>an</strong>d ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong> aga<strong>in</strong>st political<br />

challenges. The flurry of media activity around white prescription opioid use represents a<br />

considerable <strong>in</strong>vestment of public relations effort. It may also <strong>in</strong>dicate the vulnerability of<br />

racialized constructs of race, addiction <strong>an</strong>d crim<strong>in</strong>ality to social <strong>an</strong>alysis <strong>an</strong>d org<strong>an</strong>ized<br />

alternative read<strong>in</strong>gs of drug policy. Media <strong>an</strong>alysis is a political act, one piece of a multipronged<br />

effort that will be necessary to challenge drug war punishment <strong>an</strong>d as racial<br />

violence <strong>in</strong> contemporary form.” (Netherl<strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>d Hass<strong>an</strong>, 2016)<br />

The notion that “policy assessments could go a long way <strong>in</strong> heighten<strong>in</strong>g public awareness of the<br />

ways that racism is <strong>in</strong>stitutionally re<strong>in</strong>forced” is noteworthy <strong>an</strong>d requires further <strong>in</strong>terpretation <strong>in</strong><br />

terms of what <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong>-centered research paradigm might see as desirable fram<strong>in</strong>gs of policy<br />

issues <strong>an</strong>d how these might differ from much of the current literature on drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. It<br />

may be useful to expound upon where <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong>-centered research paradigm might recommend<br />

caution. As previously stated, narratives of the “<strong>in</strong>no[cent] victims” of the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s are<br />

fraught with d<strong>an</strong>ger, as they presuppose a search for a “perfect victim” who is “rational” <strong>an</strong>d<br />

“respectable” <strong>an</strong>d thus worthy of sympathy. In addition to potentially work<strong>in</strong>g aga<strong>in</strong>st the larger<br />

mission of legitimiz<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>d conta<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g addiction, recreational illicit drug use, <strong>an</strong>d the drug sell<strong>in</strong>g<br />

that often accomp<strong>an</strong>ies addiction, these frames of <strong>in</strong>nocence <strong>an</strong>d respectability are deeply<br />

racialized. However, <strong>in</strong> l<strong>in</strong>e with the “diunital” th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g previously <strong>in</strong>troduced, that does not me<strong>an</strong><br />

this argument need play no role <strong>in</strong> mak<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong> em<strong>an</strong>cipatory case for drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. The<br />

HRW “Every 25 Seconds” report <strong>in</strong>troduces the concept of “false positives” from police drug tests<br />

done <strong>in</strong> the field. They write:<br />

“Like Isaac’s conviction for drug possession, dozens more <strong>in</strong> Harris County <strong>in</strong> 2015 were<br />

ultimately vacated <strong>an</strong>d the charges dismissed, but only because authorities took the time<br />

to have the drugs tested, after the case dispositions. The exonerations required laboratory<br />

test<strong>in</strong>g, defense <strong>an</strong>d prosecution fil<strong>in</strong>gs for habeas corpus relief, trial court<br />

recommendations, <strong>an</strong>d eventual dismissal by the Texas Court of Crim<strong>in</strong>al Appeals.283 In<br />

the me<strong>an</strong>time, defend<strong>an</strong>ts had to endure pretrial detention, probation, sometimes a jail<br />

sentence, <strong>an</strong>d the prospect of a felony conviction for action that was lawful.<br />

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As the exonerations <strong>in</strong> Harris County demonstrate, people plead guilty to drug possession<br />

even when they are <strong>in</strong>nocent, because the system makes them feel they have no choice.<br />

These cases also show that field tests often produce false positives <strong>an</strong>d yet are sometimes<br />

the only evidence of drug possession. Fortunately for the defend<strong>an</strong>ts, Harris County<br />

<strong>in</strong>vested the time <strong>an</strong>d resources to test drugs after conviction. Harris County Public<br />

Defender Alex Bun<strong>in</strong> told us that if other jurisdictions undertook the same effort, he<br />

expected we would see that around the country <strong>in</strong>digent defend<strong>an</strong>ts plead guilty to drug<br />

possession when they are <strong>in</strong>nocent.” (Hum<strong>an</strong> Rights Watch, 2016).<br />

This is <strong>in</strong>terest<strong>in</strong>g not merely from the perspective of promot<strong>in</strong>g the “<strong>in</strong>nocence” narrative, but<br />

specifically because it impugns the ability for cops to be perceived as competent <strong>an</strong>d effective<br />

adjudicators of guilt <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>nocence under drug prohibition. As such, a research project that focuses<br />

on limit<strong>in</strong>g polic<strong>in</strong>g to be able to test for drugs accurately, with <strong>an</strong> explicit focus on the police’s<br />

ability to “game” the test or the fundamental issues of field tests essentially tak<strong>in</strong>g the place of jury<br />

trials <strong>in</strong> establish<strong>in</strong>g guilt <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>nocence, would help delegitimize the very notion that drug<br />

possession c<strong>an</strong> be adjudicated <strong>in</strong> a crim<strong>in</strong>al m<strong>an</strong>ner <strong>an</strong>d thus help foster a drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization<br />

narrative. Additionally, fund<strong>in</strong>g for a project, as was done <strong>in</strong> Texas, that attempts to exonerate<br />

those convicted of drug possession based on false positive field tests could be a productive research<br />

<strong>in</strong>quiry. This would also meet the objective of “heuristic” or applied research <strong>in</strong> that it would have<br />

real-world results towards further<strong>in</strong>g the goal of the material liberation of oppressed people. It<br />

would help <strong>in</strong>dividuals craft appeals that could lead to their exoneration <strong>an</strong>d freedom. While this<br />

would feed the myth of “<strong>in</strong>nocence,” the real world material contribution to liberat<strong>in</strong>g people from<br />

prison makes this effort a fruitful research effort. Aga<strong>in</strong>, these efforts must explicitly be def<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

by researchers as delegitimiz<strong>in</strong>g the very notion that police should have the authority to police<br />

drug possession, lest these efforts be recast by police “reformers” as a me<strong>an</strong>s to give them more<br />

researchers for better <strong>an</strong>d “more professional” test<strong>in</strong>g. <strong>Research</strong>ers must be cogniz<strong>an</strong>t of deeply<br />

embedded pro-police assumptive logic embedded <strong>in</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong> society which c<strong>an</strong> make even<br />

efforts designed to challenge police authority <strong>in</strong>to reasons to give them even more money <strong>an</strong>d<br />

support <strong>in</strong> the name of “reform”.<br />

Moreover, researchers should be cautious when confront<strong>in</strong>g the notion of empathy <strong>an</strong>d<br />

emphasiz<strong>in</strong>g the illegitimate suffer<strong>in</strong>g of the victims of the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s. While it is the<br />

assumption that this sort of hum<strong>an</strong>ization creates identification with victims which is politically<br />

productive, it assumes the experiences of those who are victimized are knowable to the audiences.<br />

A reality which is d<strong>an</strong>gerous as it creates the assumption that white audiences are able to<br />

underst<strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>d identify with the suffer<strong>in</strong>g of Afric<strong>an</strong> peoples on the terms of Afric<strong>an</strong> peoples.<br />

Where what more often happens is the deep suffer<strong>in</strong>g of people of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent gets tr<strong>an</strong>sposed<br />

<strong>in</strong>to political <strong>an</strong>d moral narratives that are familiar to white audiences (Hartm<strong>an</strong>, 2010). Columbia<br />

University professor <strong>an</strong>d MacArthur Genius award recipient Sidiya Hartm<strong>an</strong> presents this <strong>an</strong>alysis<br />

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with<strong>in</strong> the context of a critique of the reproduction of slave narratives, which often presents graphic<br />

violence done to enslaved Afric<strong>an</strong>s <strong>in</strong> the name of educat<strong>in</strong>g the audiences. This creates suffer<strong>in</strong>g<br />

as a spectacle which dem<strong>an</strong>ds cathartic recognition. Obscur<strong>in</strong>g the direct need for material ch<strong>an</strong>ge<br />

<strong>an</strong>d ignor<strong>in</strong>g the uncomfortable dynamic of voyeurism <strong>an</strong>d racial sadism that accomp<strong>an</strong>ies these<br />

representations (ibid). <strong>Drug</strong> policy is <strong>an</strong> especially apt space for this critique, as no matter how<br />

graphic the suffer<strong>in</strong>g of addicts is presented, it will lead m<strong>an</strong>y to argue this suffer<strong>in</strong>g was necessary<br />

for the <strong>in</strong>dividual to “hit their bottom.” With a twelve-step ideology as a particularly powerful<br />

frame to justify structural violence as necessary for the moral <strong>an</strong>d spiritual awaken<strong>in</strong>gs which some<br />

argue are prerequisites for sobriety. As such, researchers should not assume that graphic depictions<br />

of suffer<strong>in</strong>g are politically productive for the communities they are attempt<strong>in</strong>g to advocate for.<br />

Instead, they should focus extensively on <strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>alysis of the <strong>in</strong>stitutions engaged with the issues of<br />

drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization, the <strong>in</strong>teractions between them, how the status quo exacerbates the<br />

derac<strong>in</strong>ation of <strong>in</strong>stitutional capacity of communities to solve their problems, <strong>an</strong>d how drug<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization c<strong>an</strong> be one tool to add capacity for the ability of communities to self determ<strong>in</strong>e<br />

their futures. Not only does this express the ability of <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong>-centered research paradigm to<br />

shift the frame of <strong>an</strong>alysis from the <strong>in</strong>dividual to the collective, but it also expresses what Schiele<br />

calls the “universalist” impulse of Afric<strong>an</strong>-centered research, as this collective <strong>in</strong>stitutional<br />

<strong>an</strong>alysis must be equally applied to white <strong>an</strong>d Lat<strong>in</strong>x communities as it is for Black communities.<br />

For example, calls for decrim<strong>in</strong>alization must account for the reality that hyper <strong>in</strong>carceration, <strong>in</strong><br />

addition to be<strong>in</strong>g a racialized social control program for Black populations, is also a jobs program<br />

for rural <strong>an</strong>d suburb<strong>an</strong> communities (Pfaff, 2018). Polic<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>d prisons are some of the few sources<br />

of jobs that provide middle-class salaries <strong>an</strong>d benefits with no need to obta<strong>in</strong> a college degree<br />

Creat<strong>in</strong>g a powerful <strong>in</strong>centive for these <strong>in</strong>stitutions to hold onto their power <strong>an</strong>d a deep conception<br />

<strong>in</strong> m<strong>an</strong>y communities that these <strong>in</strong>stitutions are economic pillars of their communities.<br />

<strong>Decrim<strong>in</strong>alization</strong> research has often presented alternative visions of policy formation around the<br />

s<strong>an</strong>ctions of drug possession. They have not presented <strong>an</strong> alternative vision for social<br />

org<strong>an</strong>izations that could underm<strong>in</strong>e the <strong>in</strong>stitutions that benefit from the current arr<strong>an</strong>gement, a<br />

reality the Afric<strong>an</strong>-centered vision of heuristic research sees as <strong>an</strong> oversight.<br />

Afric<strong>an</strong>-centered research also presents recommendations for the <strong>in</strong>stitutions that focus<br />

their efforts on <strong>an</strong>alyz<strong>in</strong>g drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization.. First, polic<strong>in</strong>g must be seen comprehensively as<br />

<strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>stitution, account<strong>in</strong>g for the heterogeneity among dist<strong>in</strong>ct polic<strong>in</strong>g entities <strong>an</strong>d even the<br />

diversity with<strong>in</strong> polic<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>stitutions. There is no s<strong>in</strong>gular <strong>Maryl<strong>an</strong>d</strong> drug prohibition entity but a<br />

variety of them that overlap <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>fluence each other <strong>in</strong> often chaotic ways. State troopers enter a<br />

variety of jurisdictions <strong>an</strong>d may have dist<strong>in</strong>ct enforcement patterns th<strong>an</strong> local police. With<strong>in</strong> local<br />

police departments, different formations may be pursu<strong>in</strong>g different strategies related to the<br />

enforcement of drug prohibition. All of these <strong>in</strong>stitutions <strong>in</strong>teract with federal law enforcement<br />

entities, which, <strong>in</strong> addition to typical <strong>in</strong>centives <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>fluences as Byrn illustrates, also engage with<br />

federal <strong>in</strong>stitutions like fusion centers which c<strong>an</strong> help shape local enforcement patterns <strong>an</strong>d<br />

practices. The recent data dump from “Blue Leaks” presents extensive data on the role fusion<br />

centers play <strong>in</strong> engag<strong>in</strong>g local polic<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>d creat<strong>in</strong>g a culture with<strong>in</strong> police departments that are<br />

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conducive to aggressive, heavy-h<strong>an</strong>ded War on <strong>Drug</strong>s polic<strong>in</strong>g (Mart<strong>in</strong>ez <strong>an</strong>d Lee, 2020). It might<br />

be useful for researchers to look through this data dump <strong>an</strong>d see if there is <strong>an</strong>y relev<strong>an</strong>t <strong>in</strong>formation<br />

perta<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g to <strong>Maryl<strong>an</strong>d</strong>. Moreover, no account of War on <strong>Drug</strong>s polic<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> <strong>Maryl<strong>an</strong>d</strong> would be<br />

complete without <strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong> depth <strong>an</strong>alysis of the mach<strong>in</strong>ations around Baltimore’s Gun Trace Task<br />

Force, which used the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s’ delegitimation of street level drug sellers as leverage to<br />

violently attack <strong>an</strong>d rob drug dealers, themselves becom<strong>in</strong>g drug traffickers <strong>an</strong>d engag<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> other<br />

forms of violence aga<strong>in</strong>st the citizens of Baltimore (Lopez, 2018). View<strong>in</strong>g the Gun Trace Task<br />

Force not as the mach<strong>in</strong>ations of a few rogue cops, but as the <strong>in</strong>teractions of the power imbal<strong>an</strong>ce<br />

between the community <strong>an</strong>d the police force, helps to clarify how hav<strong>in</strong>g a more “exp<strong>an</strong>sive<br />

research frame on police statutory authority,” as Woods recommends, might look with<strong>in</strong> the<br />

context of <strong>an</strong> Afrocentric research paradigm. This would me<strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>alysis of drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization<br />

must <strong>in</strong>clude <strong>an</strong>alysis of civili<strong>an</strong> oversight <strong>in</strong>stitutions, <strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g the limitations of their oversight<br />

capacities because of legal obstacles such as the <strong>Maryl<strong>an</strong>d</strong> Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of<br />

Rights. This would also require underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g drug prohibition as what John Pfaff describes as a<br />

comprehensively broken legal system with several structural factors beyond the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s<br />

which must be addressed <strong>in</strong> order to challenge the perverse <strong>in</strong>centive towards over-polic<strong>in</strong>g,<br />

overproduction, overcharg<strong>in</strong>g, <strong>an</strong>d the lack of support for public defenders. <strong>Research</strong>ers would do<br />

well to engage his critique of the “st<strong>an</strong>dard model” expl<strong>an</strong>ation for hyper <strong>in</strong>carceration, centered<br />

on <strong>an</strong> over-focus on the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s <strong>an</strong>d “nonviolent drug offenders,” as it will be a useful<br />

start<strong>in</strong>g po<strong>in</strong>t for exp<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g frames of <strong>an</strong>alysis for research on drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization.<br />

Given the uniqueness of the Americ<strong>an</strong> crim<strong>in</strong>al legal system <strong>an</strong>d our <strong>an</strong>alysis of the<br />

limitations of the Portuguese model, researchers should be dubious of claims that data from other<br />

nations c<strong>an</strong> serve as sufficient proof of the efficacy of drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. Not only because of<br />

the role of structural racism <strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>ti-Blackness <strong>in</strong> America, but because of the clear difference <strong>in</strong><br />

medial <strong>in</strong>frastructure for the poor. Illustrated by the fact that America is one of the few<br />

<strong>in</strong>dustrialized nations which still does not offer a guar<strong>an</strong>tee of some basic form of universal health<br />

care for its population. This does not, however, me<strong>an</strong> that other nations' experiences are not useful<br />

places for research. An Afric<strong>an</strong>-centered research paradigm would advocate for <strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>creased focus<br />

on nations which more accurately mirror the United States <strong>in</strong> their racial dynamics, such as Brazil<br />

<strong>an</strong>d South Africa. While these nations are typically ignored <strong>in</strong> decrim<strong>in</strong>alization literature, both<br />

have court rul<strong>in</strong>gs on c<strong>an</strong>nabis decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. Which, accord<strong>in</strong>g to m<strong>an</strong>y, are typically not<br />

enforced on the ground, have nascent legalization movements fac<strong>in</strong>g pushback, <strong>an</strong>d are not l<strong>in</strong>ked<br />

to larger social justice movements, both of which may serve as a necessary cautionary tale for the<br />

efficiency of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization <strong>in</strong> the United States (Nel, 2018; Veit, 2019).<br />

It is with<strong>in</strong> the methodology of <strong>in</strong>stitutional <strong>an</strong>alysis <strong>an</strong>d assess<strong>in</strong>g community capacity<br />

that we c<strong>an</strong> offer suggestions on how to <strong>an</strong>swer a critical research question <strong>in</strong> more detail: how<br />

exactly does one def<strong>in</strong>e decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. As previously stated, the st<strong>an</strong>dard model has <strong>an</strong><br />

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overreli<strong>an</strong>ce on the civil <strong>an</strong>d crim<strong>in</strong>al punishment paradigm <strong>an</strong>d ignores the more comprehensive<br />

frames of the crim<strong>in</strong>alization of oppression endured by entire populations. How this might be<br />

applied with<strong>in</strong> the specific context of research<strong>in</strong>g solutions to drug prohibition requires researchers<br />

to engage the voices of <strong>in</strong>dividuals subjugated by dom<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>t research methodology <strong>an</strong>d to<br />

underst<strong>an</strong>d their voices as critiques to the epistemic <strong>an</strong>d political limitations embedded with<strong>in</strong><br />

research on drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. Afrocentric researchers have conveyed <strong>an</strong> underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of<br />

drug policy as epiphenomenal of the larger structure of <strong>an</strong>ti-Black <strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>ti-poor violence<br />

embedded with<strong>in</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong> society, argu<strong>in</strong>g that only comprehensive reorg<strong>an</strong>ization of Americ<strong>an</strong><br />

society c<strong>an</strong> address the root causes beh<strong>in</strong>d addiction. On this po<strong>in</strong>t, addiction researcher Burce<br />

Alex<strong>an</strong>der <strong>an</strong>d Afric<strong>an</strong>-centered researcher Jerome Schilie agree. Both argue that macro-level<br />

reorgnaization of society, r<strong>an</strong>g<strong>in</strong>g from universal job guar<strong>an</strong>tee <strong>an</strong>d reparations for slavery to<br />

wholescale elim<strong>in</strong>ation of neo-liberal globalizaed captialism, are nessessary to address the<br />

sutuructral violence which drives <strong>in</strong>dividuals to problematic drug use (Alex<strong>an</strong>der, 2010; Schiele,<br />

2010). While these recommendations go beyond the scope of m<strong>an</strong>y research projects, this c<strong>an</strong><br />

serve as a start<strong>in</strong>g po<strong>in</strong>t to underst<strong>an</strong>d how these frames c<strong>an</strong> be applied to research at a state-wide<br />

level. First, this frame would caution researchers aga<strong>in</strong>st the “decrim<strong>in</strong>alization would save<br />

money” frame of <strong>an</strong>alysis. s Pfaff suggests, despite lofty claims, cost sav<strong>in</strong>gs from <strong>in</strong>carcerat<strong>in</strong>g<br />

fewer people is likely small <strong>an</strong>d often projected. Indeed, he argues well-me<strong>an</strong><strong>in</strong>g researchers may<br />

often <strong>in</strong>flate cost sav<strong>in</strong>gs <strong>in</strong> <strong>an</strong> attempt to “strengthen” the argument for reform. In addition to<br />

tacitly fall<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>to a frame of austerity, this frame ignores the reality that m<strong>an</strong>y <strong>in</strong>dividuals see<br />

<strong>in</strong>vest<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> drug prohibition as a necessary <strong>in</strong>vestment <strong>in</strong> social stability. Try<strong>in</strong>g to conv<strong>in</strong>ce them<br />

of the efficacy of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization through the tout<strong>in</strong>g of cost sav<strong>in</strong>gs is a largely futile exercise.<br />

<strong>Drug</strong> policy reform <strong>an</strong>alysis has often reflected a tacit libertari<strong>an</strong>ism that argues that <strong>in</strong>dividuals<br />

should be free to do whatever they w<strong>an</strong>t with their bodies without state regulation as long as no<br />

one else is directly hurt by those actions. While this should be lauded <strong>in</strong> that it rejects as assumed<br />

legitimacy of the authority of the state to extend regulation to <strong>in</strong>dividuals bodies, it fails to account<br />

for the community-wide implications of the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s. Harms which requires the active<br />

redress by the guilty party. In this case, the state of <strong>Maryl<strong>an</strong>d</strong>. This sentiment is best encapsulated<br />

by a quote from Afric<strong>an</strong> freedom fighter Malcolm X, who once said:<br />

“If you stick a knife <strong>in</strong> my back n<strong>in</strong>e <strong>in</strong>ches <strong>an</strong>d pull it out six <strong>in</strong>ches, there's no progress.<br />

If you pull it all the way out that's not progress. Progress is heal<strong>in</strong>g the wound that the<br />

blow made. And they haven't even pulled the knife out much less heal the wound. They<br />

won't even admit the knife is there.” (MALCOLM X, TV <strong>in</strong>terview, Mar. 1964)<br />

When it comes to drug policy, decrim<strong>in</strong>alization of drugs is equal to tak<strong>in</strong>g the knife out.<br />

For researchers to produce <strong>an</strong>alysis which reflect em<strong>an</strong>cipatory praxis, <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong> research<br />

paradigm would necessitate research <strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>alysis on how to heal the wound. Several authors have<br />

commented on the necessity for reparations for the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s, <strong>an</strong>d given the possible<br />

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legalization of adult use c<strong>an</strong>nabis <strong>in</strong> <strong>Maryl<strong>an</strong>d</strong> produc<strong>in</strong>g a large pot of new tax revenue, it would<br />

seem logical for researchers to l<strong>in</strong>k the <strong>an</strong>alysis on drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization to calls for reparations<br />

for the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s (Gr<strong>an</strong>dpre, 2020). Detail<strong>in</strong>g the specifics of these reparations regimes is<br />

beyond the scope of this <strong>an</strong>alysis <strong>an</strong>d likely beyond the scope of <strong>an</strong>y subsequent research. What is<br />

critical, however, is how reparations is framed centred on the notion of communities themselves<br />

hav<strong>in</strong>g the fund<strong>in</strong>g, capacity, <strong>an</strong>d autonomy to decide for themselves how to repair the harm caused<br />

by the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s (ibid). The assimilationist impulse Kendi presents <strong>in</strong> his research merely<br />

po<strong>in</strong>ts out harms to communities is not only <strong>in</strong>sufficient, but potentially counterproductive. As the<br />

dom<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>t impulse <strong>in</strong> the face of it all shows the suffer<strong>in</strong>g of the Black community to believe<br />

<strong>in</strong>dividuals must come <strong>in</strong>to their community from the outside. Br<strong>in</strong>g<strong>in</strong>g them enlightenment <strong>an</strong>d<br />

ref<strong>in</strong>ement through <strong>in</strong>culcat<strong>in</strong>g ideologies <strong>an</strong>d, most import<strong>an</strong>tly, the <strong>in</strong>stitutions, of the dom<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>t<br />

society. From <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong>centered research paradigm, there would be no worse outcome from a<br />

research project th<strong>an</strong> for readers to see research on the harms of the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s <strong>an</strong>d to <strong>in</strong>terpret<br />

this data <strong>in</strong> a m<strong>an</strong>ner where they conv<strong>in</strong>ce themselves the solution to the harms done is to replace<br />

the prison <strong>in</strong>dustrial complex with the nonprofit <strong>in</strong>dustrial complex. An assemblage of<br />

phil<strong>an</strong>thropic <strong>in</strong>stitutions are equally (sometimes even more so th<strong>an</strong> police department) without<br />

<strong>an</strong>y formal mech<strong>an</strong>ism of accountability to oppressed communities <strong>an</strong>d are tasked with m<strong>an</strong>ag<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>an</strong>d conta<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g the suffer<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>d social upheaval produced by a white-supremacist capitalist<br />

patriarchy rather th<strong>an</strong> elim<strong>in</strong>at<strong>in</strong>g them (INCITE!, 2007). To counter the gravitational pull of<br />

assimilationist thought <strong>an</strong>d its tendency to believe the solution to the suffer<strong>in</strong>g of the Black<br />

community is to tr<strong>an</strong>spose the ideology <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>frastructure of the white community upon them, it<br />

is necessary for research to explicitly reject the politics of assimilation <strong>an</strong>d to present <strong>an</strong>alysis<br />

around how research suggests are the best ways to empower communities to use their own<br />

<strong>in</strong>stitutions <strong>an</strong>d cultural resources to address issues of addiction <strong>an</strong>d violence <strong>in</strong> their communities.<br />

While there are a bevy of community level <strong>in</strong>terventions <strong>in</strong>to addiction <strong>an</strong>d violence <strong>in</strong> the<br />

Black community, these <strong>in</strong>terventions are woefully understudied by ma<strong>in</strong>stream researchers.<br />

Fortunately, there are several examples researchers may use as a start<strong>in</strong>g po<strong>in</strong>t for further research.<br />

Schile presents specific recommendations for future research on projects touch<strong>in</strong>g on addiction,<br />

argu<strong>in</strong>g it should <strong>in</strong>corporate <strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>alysis on the <strong>in</strong>tergenerational effect of slavery <strong>an</strong>d whether the<br />

“surviors guilt” of relatively affluent Blacks could be a factor <strong>in</strong> addiction, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“Although much is made over the po<strong>in</strong>t that some affirmative-action policies punish<br />

contemporary Europe<strong>an</strong>-Americ<strong>an</strong> males who had noth<strong>in</strong>g to do with slavery <strong>an</strong>d past<br />

<strong>in</strong>stitutional racism, <strong>an</strong>d thus represent a "two wrongs don't make a right" policy agenda,<br />

less attention is devoted to the <strong>in</strong>nocent victims of historic <strong>in</strong>stitutional racism <strong>an</strong>d slavery<br />

<strong>an</strong>d the adverse corollaries this victimization has had for generations of families of color.<br />

This is why the Afrocentric paradigm recommends that more re-search be funded for, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

devoted to, unravel<strong>in</strong>g, identify<strong>in</strong>g, <strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>alyz<strong>in</strong>g the long-term, <strong>in</strong>tergenerational effects<br />

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of slavery <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>stitutional racism on not only the economic conditions of Afric<strong>an</strong>-<br />

Americ<strong>an</strong> families but also the psychosocial function<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>d well-be<strong>in</strong>g of these families.<br />

If subst<strong>an</strong>ce abuse is viewed partly as a reaction to severe psychosocial stress <strong>an</strong>d<br />

economic albatrosses, the opportunities provided by affirmative-action policies might help<br />

to dim<strong>in</strong>ish subst<strong>an</strong>ce abuse <strong>in</strong> the Afric<strong>an</strong>- Americ<strong>an</strong> community. Hence, future research<br />

should exam<strong>in</strong>e the impact of enh<strong>an</strong>ced educational <strong>an</strong>d employment opportunities on<br />

Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong>s' level of subst<strong>an</strong>ce use <strong>an</strong>d abuse.<br />

The latter recommendations focus on the victims of racial oppression, but what about the<br />

political <strong>an</strong>d economic beneficiaries of racial oppression? S<strong>in</strong>ce it was argued that their<br />

privileged status c<strong>an</strong> place them at risk of subst<strong>an</strong>ce abuse, what c<strong>an</strong> be done to alleviate<br />

the fear, <strong>an</strong>ger, <strong>an</strong>d guilt associated with this privilege that c<strong>an</strong> contribute to subst<strong>an</strong>ce<br />

abuse? Fundamentally, the system of racial oppression has to be elim<strong>in</strong>ated to completely<br />

destroy these feel<strong>in</strong>gs. Although the abolition of racial oppression may take just as long as<br />

its creation <strong>an</strong>d evolution, a few steps c<strong>an</strong> be taken that might help ease, but perhaps not<br />

elim<strong>in</strong>ate, these feel<strong>in</strong>gs, particularly those of fear (i.e., <strong>an</strong>xiety) <strong>an</strong>d guilt.” (Schile, 2013).<br />

Jerome Schiele presents a summation of the research of Kobi Kambon, who argues that<br />

programm<strong>in</strong>g which promote what he called <strong>an</strong> “Afric<strong>an</strong> self-consciousness” (ASC) could have a<br />

protective effect for Black people <strong>in</strong> relation to addiction, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“The Afric<strong>an</strong> self-consciousness (ASC) construct, discussed <strong>in</strong> the last chapter, c<strong>an</strong> be<br />

employed as <strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>dicator of <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong>'s level of group commitment to other<br />

people of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent when one exam<strong>in</strong>es the four dimensions of the construct<br />

presented by Kambon (1992, p. 56):<br />

1. Awareness of one's Afric<strong>an</strong> identity (a collective consciousness) <strong>an</strong>d Afric<strong>an</strong> cultural<br />

heritage, <strong>an</strong>d sees value <strong>in</strong> the pursuit of knowledge of self.<br />

2. Recognition of Afric<strong>an</strong> survival <strong>an</strong>d positive development as one's number one priority.<br />

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3. Respect for <strong>an</strong>d active perpetuation of th<strong>in</strong>gs Afric<strong>an</strong>: Afric<strong>an</strong> life <strong>an</strong>d Afric<strong>an</strong> cultural<br />

<strong>in</strong>stitutions.<br />

4. Ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g a st<strong>an</strong>dard of conduct of resolute <strong>an</strong>d uncompromis<strong>in</strong>g resist<strong>an</strong>ce to all<br />

th<strong>in</strong>gs <strong>an</strong>ti-Afric<strong>an</strong>.<br />

Together, the dimensions of ASC echo a common theme: ethnic con-sciousness engenders<br />

group commitment. Regard<strong>in</strong>g drug abuse, it is assumed that as a youth's ASC<br />

decreases,his or her level of subst<strong>an</strong>ce abuse is likely to <strong>in</strong>crease. It is further assumed that<br />

when <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong>-Americ<strong>an</strong> youth does not <strong>in</strong>ternalize high ASC, he or she will probably<br />

not be as concerned with elim<strong>in</strong>at<strong>in</strong>g the oppression that black people face <strong>an</strong>d, thus, would<br />

have little desire to adv<strong>an</strong>ce black people politically, culturally, <strong>an</strong>d economically. To the<br />

extent that a youth is not conscious of the oppression of people of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent, one may<br />

be unaware of the m<strong>an</strong>ifold subtle <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>sidious ways the system of oppression ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong>s<br />

control over Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong>s. The over availability of illicit drugs <strong>an</strong>d liquor stores <strong>in</strong><br />

m<strong>an</strong>y Afric<strong>an</strong>-Americ<strong>an</strong> communities probably would not be recognized by persons with<br />

low ASC as a possible strategy to dom<strong>in</strong>ate <strong>an</strong>d m<strong>an</strong>ipulate Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong>s. Therefore,<br />

youths with this m<strong>in</strong>d-set may be at a greater risk of abus<strong>in</strong>g subst<strong>an</strong>ces because they lack<br />

underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of the political <strong>an</strong>d economic function of subst<strong>an</strong>ce abuse with<strong>in</strong> the context<br />

of oppression, as discussed earlier <strong>in</strong> this chapter. Moreover, persons with low ASC, as<br />

opposed to those with high ASC, may be less likely to participate <strong>in</strong> black liberation<br />

struggles <strong>an</strong>d, therefore, may fail to acknowledge that subst<strong>an</strong>ce abuse signific<strong>an</strong>tly<br />

<strong>in</strong>hibits their ability to optimally contribute to these struggles.<br />

Some evidence suggests that the ASC construct may help to explicate self-destructive<br />

behaviors among Afric<strong>an</strong>-Americ<strong>an</strong> drug abusers. In the only study uncovered that has<br />

exam<strong>in</strong>ed the effects of ASC on Afric<strong>an</strong>-Americ<strong>an</strong> drug abusers, Dixon <strong>an</strong>d Azibo (1998)<br />

found that Afric<strong>an</strong>-Americ<strong>an</strong> male crack-coca<strong>in</strong>e users who had ASC scores that<br />

represented a higher level of group commitment tended to participate less <strong>in</strong> exploitative<br />

me<strong>an</strong>s to earn a liv<strong>in</strong>g th<strong>an</strong> those who had ASC scores that demon-strated lower levels of<br />

Afric<strong>an</strong>-Americ<strong>an</strong> group commitment. Earn<strong>in</strong>g a liv<strong>in</strong>g via exploitative me<strong>an</strong>s was def<strong>in</strong>ed<br />

by the authors as participation <strong>in</strong> thefts, robberies, sell<strong>in</strong>g stolen goods, <strong>an</strong>d hustl<strong>in</strong>g<br />

people <strong>in</strong> licit <strong>an</strong>d illicit ways. Although Dixon <strong>an</strong>d Azibo did not exam<strong>in</strong>e whether lower<br />

ASC places one at greater risk of us<strong>in</strong>g or abus<strong>in</strong>g drugs, their f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>gs are import<strong>an</strong>t <strong>in</strong><br />

that ASC may help to expla<strong>in</strong> the vari<strong>an</strong>ce <strong>in</strong> crim<strong>in</strong>al behavior among Afric<strong>an</strong>-Americ<strong>an</strong><br />

crack coca<strong>in</strong>e users <strong>an</strong>d abusers. Future research needs to explore the effects of ASC<br />

orientation on Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong>s who become drug abusers <strong>an</strong>d those who do not. In the<br />

Dixon <strong>an</strong>d Azibo study, all of the subjects were drug abusers.<br />

Although not us<strong>in</strong>g the ASC construct, Gary <strong>an</strong>d Berry (1985) found a signific<strong>an</strong>t<br />

relationship between awareness of racial oppression <strong>an</strong>d attitudes about subst<strong>an</strong>ce abuse<br />

among 411 r<strong>an</strong>domly sampled Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong>s. Awareness that racial oppression was<br />

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a reality <strong>in</strong> the United States was a major dimension of what the researchers referred to as<br />

a racial consciousness scale. When racial consciousness was correlated with their measure<br />

of "attitudes toward subst<strong>an</strong>ce abuse," respondents who had higher racial consciousness<br />

were signific<strong>an</strong>tly less likely to tolerate subst<strong>an</strong>ce abuse th<strong>an</strong> those who had lower racial<br />

consciousness. Indeed, <strong>in</strong> this study, racial consciousness was more import<strong>an</strong>t <strong>in</strong><br />

expla<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g subst<strong>an</strong>ce abuse attitudes th<strong>an</strong> were gender, age, church <strong>in</strong>volvement,<br />

education level, marital status, <strong>an</strong>d community <strong>in</strong>volvement.<br />

When commitment to one's ethnic group has been conceived as <strong>an</strong> outcome of drug abuse,<br />

adverse consequences also have been reported. Westermeyer (1995) demonstrates how<br />

subst<strong>an</strong>ce abuse c<strong>an</strong> be pernicious to one's ethnic affiliation <strong>an</strong>d cultural participation.<br />

The abuse is adverse because it c<strong>an</strong> cause what he refers to as cultural disruption, a<br />

disruption not only <strong>in</strong> one's participation with the group but also <strong>in</strong> one's <strong>in</strong>ternalization<br />

of the group's values, norms, <strong>an</strong>d customs. In other words, the person becomes less<br />

committed to the ethos <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>terests of his or her cultural group. Westermeyer also<br />

suggests that the relationship between cultural disruption <strong>an</strong>d subst<strong>an</strong>ce abuse is<br />

reciprocal <strong>in</strong> that the disruption c<strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>crease the severity of the abuse. This is <strong>in</strong>dicated by<br />

his statement that "The longer that these [cultural disruptive effects] have been present,<br />

the longer the subst<strong>an</strong>ce abuse is likely to have been present. If the cultural disruption is<br />

extensive, the subst<strong>an</strong>ce abuse is likely to be severe" (1995, p. 596). Apply<strong>in</strong>g<br />

Westermeyer's ideas to this discussion could imply that lower levels of ASC for Afric<strong>an</strong>-<br />

Americ<strong>an</strong> youths are t<strong>an</strong>tamount to cultural disruption <strong>an</strong>d could place them <strong>in</strong> jeopardy<br />

of drug abuse <strong>an</strong>d addiction. (Schiele, 2013).<br />

This <strong>an</strong>alysis fits well with Bruce Alex<strong>an</strong>der’s <strong>an</strong>alysis of the protective effects of “psycho-social<br />

<strong>in</strong>tegration” <strong>in</strong> relation to addiction. If Alex<strong>an</strong>der is to be believed, then it is a logical <strong>in</strong>ference<br />

that the programm<strong>in</strong>g most likely to produce effective psycho-social <strong>in</strong>tegration for Black<br />

communities will likely be programm<strong>in</strong>g that explicitly pulls from the culture <strong>an</strong>d resources of<br />

Afric<strong>an</strong> people <strong>an</strong>d reflects their unique experiences here <strong>in</strong> America. This is furthered by the<br />

f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>gs of other researchers, such as Wilk<strong>in</strong>son <strong>an</strong>d Pickket, who argue that the relative economic<br />

equality of the Netherl<strong>an</strong>ds <strong>an</strong>d Sweden has fostered cohesion <strong>an</strong>d is a protective factor <strong>in</strong> limit<strong>in</strong>g<br />

addiction <strong>in</strong> these nations (Wilk<strong>in</strong>son <strong>an</strong>d Pickket, 2014). <strong>Research</strong>ers impacted by the<br />

assimilationist impulse might assume this research should be applied to America by argu<strong>in</strong>g Black<br />

Americ<strong>an</strong>s need deeper social cohesion with white America, necessitat<strong>in</strong>g deeper social-economic<br />

<strong>in</strong>tegration between these communities. An Afric<strong>an</strong> centered researcher would however<br />

underst<strong>an</strong>d that address<strong>in</strong>g poverty with<strong>in</strong> the Black community <strong>an</strong>d establish<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>stitutions<br />

which build up Black civil society c<strong>an</strong> also promote social cohesion with<strong>in</strong> the Black community,<br />

creat<strong>in</strong>g a similar protective effect. In relation to addiction, there are several examples of Black<br />

hum<strong>an</strong> social service practitioners us<strong>in</strong>g Afric<strong>an</strong>-centered thought to produce culturally<br />

competitive addiction services (Rowe <strong>an</strong>d Grillis, 1993; Longshore et al, 1998; Jackson, 1995;<br />

Fairfax, 2016; Oshodi, 1999).<br />

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This concept of promot<strong>in</strong>g socio-economic cohesion <strong>an</strong>d social <strong>in</strong>tegration with<strong>in</strong> the<br />

Black community also serves as a start<strong>in</strong>g po<strong>in</strong>t to address <strong>an</strong>other critical element of the drug<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization debate which researchers must address. The fear of violence <strong>an</strong>d the <strong>in</strong>teraction<br />

between street level drug sales <strong>an</strong>d violence. <strong>Research</strong>ers with<strong>in</strong> the st<strong>an</strong>dard narrative of<br />

addiction, as previously noted, have argued that decrim<strong>in</strong>alization would free up police resources<br />

by elim<strong>in</strong>at<strong>in</strong>g the need for enforc<strong>in</strong>g drug prohibition, allow<strong>in</strong>g these resources to flow to<br />

address<strong>in</strong>g more serious crimes. In addition to reflect<strong>in</strong>g a misunderst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of how polic<strong>in</strong>g<br />

works, this argument fails to address the role fear of crime <strong>an</strong>d specifically the spectre of violence<br />

plays <strong>in</strong> relation to Karam’s <strong>an</strong>alysis of Black bodies be<strong>in</strong>g a repository of societies fear of the<br />

irrational, racialized “other”. By claim<strong>in</strong>g decrim<strong>in</strong>alization helps to stop violence, researchers risk<br />

re<strong>in</strong>forc<strong>in</strong>g the myth of the irrational racialized other which drives calls for prohibition. It is<br />

import<strong>an</strong>t to po<strong>in</strong>t out the reality that, <strong>in</strong> aggregate, violence rates for whites <strong>an</strong>d Blacks are<br />

relatively similar, with condensed poverty be<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong> aggravat<strong>in</strong>g factor <strong>in</strong> both communities<br />

(Wilson, 2015). However, <strong>in</strong> <strong>an</strong> attempt to avoid feed<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>to the myth of Black on Black crime,<br />

researchers risk downplay<strong>in</strong>g the very real dynamic of <strong>in</strong>creased Black morality though homicide<br />

<strong>in</strong> impoverished urb<strong>an</strong> areas <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>creased Black vulnerability, particularly Black males, to violent<br />

death <strong>in</strong> general <strong>an</strong>d regardless of class. Berthelot, alongside other researchers, presents a clear<br />

summation of the data <strong>in</strong> regards to Black vulnerability to violent death, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“To highlight racial vari<strong>an</strong>ce, race-specific predicted probabilities of victimization<br />

risk were calculated <strong>an</strong>d are presented <strong>in</strong> Table 3. All predictors were set at their me<strong>an</strong><br />

with the exception of the structural disadv<strong>an</strong>tage <strong>in</strong>dex <strong>an</strong>d family <strong>in</strong>come, which were<br />

adjusted to assess predicted probabilities of victimization risk at various levels of <strong>in</strong>dividual<br />

<strong>an</strong>d aggregate deprivation. The probability that a Black <strong>in</strong>dividual <strong>in</strong> a commu-nity<br />

with average levels of disadv<strong>an</strong>tage <strong>an</strong>d average family <strong>in</strong>come will be murdered is 6 times<br />

greater th<strong>an</strong> that for a comparable White person. If the same Black <strong>in</strong>dividual lives <strong>in</strong> a<br />

highly disadv<strong>an</strong>taged area, their risk grows to nearly 7 times that of a similarly situated<br />

White person. In contrast, if the same Black person resided <strong>in</strong> a more affluent area he or<br />

she would reduce their risk to only 5 times that of a similar White <strong>in</strong>dividual. To further<br />

illustrate racial dist<strong>in</strong>ctions, a Black <strong>in</strong>dividual <strong>in</strong> the least deprived area with family<br />

<strong>in</strong>come <strong>in</strong> the 90th percentile, experiences a 2.1 times greater likelihood of be<strong>in</strong>g murdered<br />

th<strong>an</strong> a low-<strong>in</strong>come White <strong>in</strong> a highly disadv<strong>an</strong>taged area.” (Berthelot et al.)<br />

Rather th<strong>an</strong> see<strong>in</strong>g this as <strong>an</strong> argument to be glossed over <strong>in</strong> the name of mak<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong> argument for<br />

drug decrim<strong>in</strong>alization, <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong>-centered research paradigm would view the <strong>in</strong>creased rates of<br />

violence-related mortality as a very real issue for people of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent. This view would then<br />

be used as <strong>an</strong> argument <strong>in</strong> favor of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. It is true that there is clear evidence of<br />

<strong>in</strong>creased violence <strong>in</strong> Black communities, but there is little clear evidence that <strong>in</strong>creased fund<strong>in</strong>g<br />

for police operations has <strong>an</strong>y long term deterrent effect on this violence (Alex<strong>an</strong>der, 2020).<br />

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Scholars of the history of Afric<strong>an</strong> culture have <strong>an</strong>alyzed this dynamic for decades. One of the<br />

most <strong>in</strong>sightful theorists of why historical violence towards people of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent relates to<br />

their current vulnerability to violent death is former City University of New York professor Amos<br />

Wilson. In his sem<strong>in</strong>al work titled “Black-on-Black Violence: The Psychodynamics of Black Self-<br />

Annihilation <strong>in</strong> Service of White Dom<strong>in</strong>ation”, Wilson makes the argument that <strong>in</strong>dividuals <strong>in</strong> the<br />

Black community that commit homicide should be viewed as the externalization of a suicidal<br />

impulse, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“The rites of passage through racist White Americ<strong>an</strong>-dom<strong>in</strong>ated society is extremely<br />

stressful for Black youth. This is more so the case for the Black male s<strong>in</strong>ce he receives the<br />

bn<strong>in</strong>t of the White supremacist attack aga<strong>in</strong>st Black America. Stripped of appropriate male<br />

support, guid<strong>an</strong>ce, protection, education, <strong>an</strong>d other import<strong>an</strong>t cop<strong>in</strong>g skills by a White<br />

racist system which fears his Afrocentric competence, he is lefi vulnerable to the thous<strong>an</strong>ds<br />

of little nicks <strong>an</strong>d burns, physical <strong>an</strong>d psychological <strong>in</strong>sults, which cumulatively push him<br />

toward self-<strong>an</strong>nihilation. Not allowed the privileges <strong>an</strong>d status of full <strong>an</strong>d unfettered<br />

m<strong>an</strong>hood by White racist male dom<strong>in</strong>ation, a signific<strong>an</strong>t number of Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong> males<br />

are m<strong>in</strong>iaturized or are often led to express their “m<strong>an</strong>hood” <strong>in</strong> self-destructive ways: <strong>in</strong><br />

ways harmful to other Black males <strong>an</strong>d the Black community <strong>in</strong> general. Immaturized by<br />

White racist oppression, void of overarch<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>d long-term Afrocentric goals which<br />

provide them with maximum <strong>an</strong>d healthy control over their impulses (<strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g impulses<br />

to kill themselves) they may commit suicide. Without Afrocentric self-def<strong>in</strong>ition, possessed<br />

by <strong>an</strong> <strong>in</strong>trojected alien identity, <strong>an</strong>d racked by neurotic <strong>an</strong>d psychotic conflict, the Black<br />

male readily becomes subject to White racist psychopolitical, psychopathological<br />

prompt<strong>in</strong>gs <strong>an</strong>d persecutions. Consequently, he may come to th<strong>in</strong>k that the only efi‘ecfive<br />

solution to his problems lie <strong>in</strong> physical or mental self-abnegation.<br />

To be <strong>an</strong> Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong> male <strong>in</strong> White America is to live with <strong>an</strong>ger <strong>an</strong>d hostility, to<br />

feel the need to attack, to violently retaliate, to even the score. These murderous feel<strong>in</strong>gs<br />

without appropriate catharsis, sublimation, ch<strong>an</strong>nel<strong>in</strong>g, or targets yet <strong>in</strong> need of outward<br />

expression are often turned <strong>in</strong>ward result<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> self-<strong>an</strong>nihilation. White racist Americ<strong>an</strong><br />

society, harbor<strong>in</strong>g a poorly concealed death-wish aga<strong>in</strong>st its Black captives, generally<br />

leaves but a few outlets for the release of societally provoked Black male rage: all<br />

<strong>in</strong>appropriate! They <strong>in</strong>clude the abject submission to oppression, narcosis by drugs or<br />

religion, deliberate ignor<strong>an</strong>ce, unend<strong>in</strong>g, unreward<strong>in</strong>g protests, futile sub rosa grumbl<strong>in</strong>g,<br />

over- compensatory status striv<strong>in</strong>g, crim<strong>in</strong>ality, <strong>an</strong>d homicidal attacks on other Black<br />

males or on himself suicide). Hav<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>ternalized white racist values <strong>an</strong>d attitudes, hav<strong>in</strong>g<br />

been possessed by his <strong>in</strong>trojected white racist demon, the suicidal Afric<strong>an</strong> Americ<strong>an</strong> blames<br />

his victimized self. Identified with his impl<strong>an</strong>ted alien spirit, he harbors a death-wish<br />

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aga<strong>in</strong>st the victims ofWhite racist oppression amongst whom he himself is numbered.<br />

Look<strong>in</strong>g at the world through jaundiced white racist eyes, he sees the enemy:<br />

And the enemy is himself.” (Wilson,1990).<br />

<strong>Analysis</strong> of Black suicide rates have revealed that the Black suicide rate, far lower th<strong>an</strong> the<br />

rate of suicide <strong>in</strong> the white community, is nearly made up by a high number of Black homiciderelated<br />

deaths. Though correlation is not causation, the relationship between these two rates fits<br />

perfectly <strong>in</strong>to Wilson’s theory (NPR, 2013). This <strong>in</strong>sight not only places homicide rates <strong>in</strong> the<br />

Black community with<strong>in</strong> the proper historical context, it presents a path towards solutions to the<br />

issue, one that, co<strong>in</strong>cidentally, mirrors Kambon’s research on drug use. Creat<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>stitutions which<br />

c<strong>an</strong> address <strong>in</strong>ternalized self-hatred through the establishment of psycho-social <strong>in</strong>tegration with<strong>in</strong><br />

the Black community <strong>an</strong>d Afric<strong>an</strong> identity. Schiele presents ideas on how policy could address<br />

these dynamics, specifically among Black young people. Argu<strong>in</strong>g that hum<strong>an</strong> social service<br />

<strong>in</strong>terventions which center on spiritual work c<strong>an</strong> address violence, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“The fundamental recommendation that ensues from the latter discus-sion is to alleviate<br />

<strong>an</strong>d elim<strong>in</strong>ate spiritual alienation from the sociocultural fabric of the United States. Most<br />

of these activities would have to occur <strong>in</strong> the macroarenas of hum<strong>an</strong> service work, but there<br />

is <strong>an</strong> import<strong>an</strong>t role for microlevel hum<strong>an</strong> service <strong>in</strong>terventions as well. First, major<br />

knowledge validation <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>formation dissem<strong>in</strong>ation <strong>in</strong>stitutions <strong>in</strong> the United States<br />

should reexam<strong>in</strong>e concepts of the <strong>in</strong>herent nature of hum<strong>an</strong> be<strong>in</strong>gs. Institutions such as<br />

religious org<strong>an</strong>izations, schools, <strong>an</strong>d the media need to reexplore the value <strong>in</strong> promot<strong>in</strong>g<br />

the pessimistic, <strong>in</strong>herently mischievous image of hum<strong>an</strong>s <strong>an</strong>d the implications it has for<br />

foster<strong>in</strong>g unfavorable <strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>tagonistic hum<strong>an</strong> relationships. This, of course, requires these<br />

<strong>in</strong>stitutions to reevaluate some of the core values of Eurocentric culture <strong>an</strong>d their<br />

contribution to <strong>an</strong> extraord<strong>in</strong>arily violent society.<br />

In regard to young people, these <strong>in</strong>stitutions must be particularly sensitive to youths<br />

because they are impressionistic <strong>an</strong>d because they represent the hope of improv<strong>in</strong>g society.<br />

One strategy that might be used to alleviate spiritual alienation <strong>in</strong> these <strong>in</strong>stitutions is to<br />

encourage a more holistic, spiritual, <strong>an</strong>d optimistic concept of hum<strong>an</strong> be<strong>in</strong>gs <strong>an</strong>d for adults<br />

to serve as greater behavioral models of this notion. This c<strong>an</strong> be achieved by promot<strong>in</strong>g<br />

<strong>an</strong>d teach<strong>in</strong>g holistic reason<strong>in</strong>g among youths to offset the focus on fragmented or <strong>an</strong>alytic<br />

reason<strong>in</strong>g, which some say lays the foundation for the objectification <strong>an</strong>d, ultimately, the<br />

exploitation of hum<strong>an</strong> be<strong>in</strong>gs (see Ani, 1994; Burgest, 1981; Schiele, 1994).<br />

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Holistic reason<strong>in</strong>g or logic is th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g predicated on at least two properties: the first is the<br />

union of affect (feel<strong>in</strong>g) <strong>an</strong>d thought (Ani, 1994; Bell, 1994), <strong>an</strong>d the second is the<br />

spiritualization of hum<strong>an</strong> be<strong>in</strong>gs. The union of affect <strong>an</strong>d thought recognizes the<br />

epistemological import<strong>an</strong>ce of both feel<strong>in</strong>gs <strong>an</strong>d thoughts <strong>an</strong>d that both c<strong>an</strong> be seen as two<br />

tr<strong>an</strong>sparent <strong>an</strong>d penetrable sides of the same co<strong>in</strong>. Acknowledg<strong>in</strong>g the <strong>in</strong>terconnectedness<br />

of feel<strong>in</strong>gs <strong>an</strong>d thought allows youths to make decisions that more completely tap the<br />

multidimensional makeup of their be<strong>in</strong>g. This allows young persons to get <strong>in</strong> touch with<br />

latent aspects of themselves that c<strong>an</strong> serve as<br />

new avenues through which to achieve a greater capacity for positive potentiality <strong>an</strong>d<br />

ch<strong>an</strong>ge. The spiritualization of hum<strong>an</strong> be<strong>in</strong>gs is the belief that at the core of the hum<strong>an</strong><br />

be<strong>in</strong>g is a spiritual essence that releases vast capabilities for <strong>in</strong>terconnectedness, or what<br />

Nobles (1980) calls "spiritual oneness." Br<strong>in</strong>g<strong>in</strong>g youths <strong>in</strong>to spiritual oneness helps them<br />

(1) to underst<strong>an</strong>d that they are spiritually, socially, <strong>an</strong>d mutually connected to others; (2)<br />

to acknowledge the sacredness of all hum<strong>an</strong> life; <strong>an</strong>d (3) to appreciate the m<strong>an</strong>y shades<br />

<strong>an</strong>d variations of hum<strong>an</strong> be<strong>in</strong>gs <strong>an</strong>d hum<strong>an</strong> experiences. This tr<strong>an</strong>sformation from<br />

materialistic/<strong>in</strong>dividualistic th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g to spiritual/holistic th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g among those who seek<br />

professional help c<strong>an</strong> be brought about by a therapeutic process known as the Belief<br />

Systems <strong>Analysis</strong> (see Myers, 1988).<br />

Although this help<strong>in</strong>g/heal<strong>in</strong>g process c<strong>an</strong> be conducted through direct, one-on-one<br />

practice, it should be noted that the Afrocentric paradigm of hum<strong>an</strong> services <strong>in</strong>variably<br />

views the broader society, <strong>in</strong> which the <strong>in</strong>dividual exists <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong> which the Eurocentric<br />

worldview prevails, as be<strong>in</strong>g the primary target for ch<strong>an</strong>ge.<br />

There also is a role for hum<strong>an</strong> service workers who are policy practitioners. The<br />

government, at the federal, state, <strong>an</strong>d local levels, c<strong>an</strong> promote holistic logic <strong>an</strong>d spiritual<br />

wellness by support<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>d enact<strong>in</strong>g legislation that speaks more to meet<strong>in</strong>g the holistic<br />

<strong>an</strong>d spiritual needs of citizens as well as their material needs. One of the reasons for the<br />

existence of spiritual alienation is the downplay<strong>in</strong>g or repudiation of a holistic concept of<br />

hum<strong>an</strong>s by governmental agencies that place subst<strong>an</strong>tive emphasis on material <strong>an</strong>d<br />

physical needs. Although these needs are certa<strong>in</strong>ly import<strong>an</strong>t, this predom<strong>in</strong><strong>an</strong>t focus<br />

communicates, though subtly, to the citizen that needs of the soul <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>terpersonal<br />

relationships are less critical. The doma<strong>in</strong> of social welfare policy has been too restricted,<br />

<strong>an</strong>d social welfare policy <strong>an</strong>alysts <strong>an</strong>d practitioners should work more to reconceptualize<br />

the me<strong>an</strong><strong>in</strong>g of "welfare" to highlight hum<strong>an</strong> needs that speak more to spiritual <strong>an</strong>d<br />

<strong>in</strong>terpersonal development. Us<strong>in</strong>g their skills as <strong>an</strong>alysts <strong>an</strong>d practi--<br />

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tioners, these hum<strong>an</strong> service professionals should then endeavor to <strong>in</strong>terject this<br />

conceptualization <strong>in</strong>to public <strong>an</strong>d social legislation by <strong>in</strong>fluenc<strong>in</strong>g the th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g of elected<br />

officials, executives, <strong>an</strong>d the larger citizenry. The roles discussed by J<strong>an</strong>sson (1994) c<strong>an</strong><br />

be applied to achieve this objective. (Schiele, 2013)<br />

It is these sorts of Black-led <strong>in</strong>terventions that center on spiritual elements of psycho-social<br />

<strong>in</strong>tegration which should be researched as the solutions to addiction <strong>an</strong>d the violence so often<br />

associated with drug addiction <strong>an</strong>d the illicit drug trade. It is underst<strong>an</strong>dable that researchers might<br />

not w<strong>an</strong>t to tie their research outcomes to explicit recommendations as there is a risk of<br />

confirmation bias. But it is import<strong>an</strong>t researchers explicitly study the degree to which community<br />

capacity to address issues like addiction <strong>an</strong>d violence has been so deeply disrupted by systemic<br />

poverty <strong>an</strong>d the War on <strong>Drug</strong>s. <strong>Research</strong>ers must also study roads these communities could take<br />

to reverse this structural derac<strong>in</strong>ation. One researcher who does this well is Todd Clear. He has<br />

attempted to demonstrate, through data <strong>an</strong>alysis, that hyper <strong>in</strong>carceration underm<strong>in</strong>es community<br />

capacity to build civil society because it leads to <strong>in</strong>creased crime. It might be useful to look further<br />

<strong>in</strong>to the footnotes of Clear’s work to see if there are other researchers who give recommendations<br />

on how to qu<strong>an</strong>tify the ways hyper <strong>in</strong>carceration impacts civil society <strong>in</strong> targeted communities.<br />

Clear’s work is useful <strong>in</strong> that it describes the ability of social org<strong>an</strong>ization, social cohesion, <strong>an</strong>d<br />

community stability <strong>in</strong> hav<strong>in</strong>g a protective effect <strong>in</strong> deterr<strong>in</strong>g crime. Though it appears that his<br />

f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>gs have not been applied specifically to addiction nor have they been <strong>an</strong>alyzed from <strong>an</strong><br />

Afric<strong>an</strong>-centered research perspective, which accounts for <strong>an</strong>ti-Blackness. Such <strong>an</strong> approach<br />

would challenge Clear’s use of the logic of ma<strong>in</strong>stream crim<strong>in</strong>ology. For example, the view<strong>in</strong>g of<br />

social <strong>in</strong>stitutions as be<strong>in</strong>g necessary because they produce “<strong>in</strong>formal social control”, a frame<br />

which centers on the elim<strong>in</strong>ation of crime <strong>an</strong>d not the flourish<strong>in</strong>g of community as the goal of<br />

public policy.<br />

F<strong>in</strong>ally, it is necessary that research study historical precedents <strong>in</strong> the context of<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization <strong>in</strong> the United States. In the earlier mentioned discussions of the<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization of c<strong>an</strong>nabis <strong>an</strong>d traffic <strong>in</strong>fractions, Wood describes the decrim<strong>in</strong>alization of<br />

sodomy as <strong>an</strong> example of the need to account for exp<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g the frame of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. He<br />

also exp<strong>an</strong>ds his <strong>an</strong>alysis on the limitations of decrim<strong>in</strong>aliz<strong>in</strong>g traffic violations by cit<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong><br />

example of judicial decrim<strong>in</strong>alization be<strong>in</strong>g rolled back by a state legislature, writ<strong>in</strong>g:<br />

“In 1971, Colorado was the fourth state to follow this approach.77 An import<strong>an</strong>t feature<br />

of Colorado’s repealed <strong>an</strong>tisodomy law was that it <strong>in</strong>cluded a solicitation provision78<br />

aga<strong>in</strong>st oral copulation, which made LGBT civili<strong>an</strong>s vulnerable to over-polic<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> public<br />

sett<strong>in</strong>gs.79 <strong>Through</strong> established vice squads <strong>in</strong> major police departments (<strong>in</strong>clud<strong>in</strong>g the<br />

Denver Police Department), police officers conducted concentrated police surveill<strong>an</strong>ce,<br />

st<strong>in</strong>g operations, <strong>an</strong>d raids <strong>in</strong> public places <strong>an</strong>d establishments known to attract LGBT<br />

people. These aggressive tactics not only encouraged police harassment aga<strong>in</strong>st LGBT<br />

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people <strong>in</strong> public <strong>an</strong>d commercial establishments, but also fuelled their arrests for<br />

solicitation even when no act of oral copulation occurred.80<br />

After Colorado repealed its <strong>an</strong>tisodomy law, one would expect that police regulation of<br />

same-sex affection <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>timacy would decl<strong>in</strong>e. Yet, it <strong>in</strong>creased.81 One motivat<strong>in</strong>g factor<br />

for this <strong>in</strong>crease was that when the Colorado legislature repealed the <strong>an</strong>tisodomy law, it<br />

simult<strong>an</strong>eously passed a public <strong>in</strong>decency law that crim<strong>in</strong>alized (1) mak<strong>in</strong>g a “facility”<br />

available to be used “for or <strong>in</strong> aid of deviate sexual <strong>in</strong>tercourse,” <strong>an</strong>d (2) ”lewd fondl<strong>in</strong>g<br />

or caress of the body of <strong>an</strong>other person.”82 Police <strong>in</strong>voked these new crim<strong>in</strong>al provisions<br />

to harass LGBT people by raid<strong>in</strong>g gay <strong>an</strong>d lesbi<strong>an</strong> establishments <strong>an</strong>d arrest<strong>in</strong>g clientele<br />

simply for hold<strong>in</strong>g h<strong>an</strong>ds or kiss<strong>in</strong>g. As William N. Eskridge has expla<strong>in</strong>ed, the effect of the<br />

new provisions ch<strong>an</strong>ged little more th<strong>an</strong> the technical crime it was that LGBT people were<br />

harassed <strong>an</strong>d arrested under.83 In Denver, police harassment aga<strong>in</strong>st LGBT civili<strong>an</strong>s was<br />

so ramp<strong>an</strong>t after the repeal of Colorado’s <strong>an</strong>tisodomy law that hundreds of members of the<br />

ma<strong>in</strong> Denver gay <strong>an</strong>d lesbi<strong>an</strong> org<strong>an</strong>ization—the Denver Gay Coalition—protested at<br />

Denver City Council meet<strong>in</strong>gs.84 In 1973, the coalition filed a lawsuit aga<strong>in</strong>st the police<br />

department for a pattern of harassment <strong>an</strong>d the selective enforcement of Colorado’s public<br />

<strong>in</strong>decency law, which was settled the follow<strong>in</strong>g year.85 In the settlement, the city agreed<br />

that Denver police officers (particularly, officers <strong>in</strong> the department’s vice squad) would<br />

stop raid<strong>in</strong>g gay <strong>an</strong>d lesbi<strong>an</strong> establishments <strong>an</strong>d <strong>in</strong>itiat<strong>in</strong>g arrests for “kiss<strong>in</strong>g, hugg<strong>in</strong>g,<br />

d<strong>an</strong>c<strong>in</strong>g, [<strong>an</strong>d] hold<strong>in</strong>g h<strong>an</strong>ds.”86 Nevertheless, arrests doubled with<strong>in</strong> a year of the<br />

settlement.87 In addition, police regularly stood outside of Denver’s most popular gay <strong>an</strong>d<br />

lesbi<strong>an</strong> bar <strong>an</strong>d issued jaywalk<strong>in</strong>g tickets to clientele.88<br />

This example c<strong>an</strong> be <strong>in</strong>terpreted <strong>in</strong> at least two ways—the second of which more clearly<br />

speaks to the gap between pure decrim<strong>in</strong>alization <strong>an</strong>d polic<strong>in</strong>g. On one h<strong>an</strong>d, Colorado’s<br />

simult<strong>an</strong>eous repeal of the <strong>an</strong>tisodomy law <strong>an</strong>d creation of the public <strong>in</strong>decency crime<br />

arguably reflected legislative <strong>in</strong>tent to constra<strong>in</strong> same-sex affection to the domestic private<br />

realm. Some evidence supports this view. For <strong>in</strong>st<strong>an</strong>ce, as Eskridge has discussed, the<br />

Colorado legislative committee justified the provision aimed at same-sex caress<strong>in</strong>g on the<br />

grounds that it considered those acts a “gross flout<strong>in</strong>g of community st<strong>an</strong>dards.”89 Under<br />

this view, the legislative reforms did not serve to constra<strong>in</strong> aggressive polic<strong>in</strong>g of LGBT<br />

people <strong>in</strong> the public <strong>an</strong>d commercial realms. On the other h<strong>an</strong>d, the Colorado reforms<br />

illustrate the limits of conf<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g the force of pure decrim<strong>in</strong>alization to the doma<strong>in</strong> of<br />

s<strong>an</strong>ctions. Colorado’s pure decrim<strong>in</strong>alization of sodomy elim<strong>in</strong>ated possibilities for the<br />

state to punish LGBT people for private consensual sexual conduct. At the same time, the<br />

reform failed to capture m<strong>an</strong>y signific<strong>an</strong>t aspects <strong>in</strong>volv<strong>in</strong>g how police used the <strong>an</strong>tisodomy<br />

law <strong>in</strong> practice to harass LGBT populations <strong>an</strong>d to regulate same-sex affection <strong>an</strong>d<br />

<strong>in</strong>timacy <strong>in</strong> public sett<strong>in</strong>gs. Therefore, the example further illustrates the high stakes that<br />

the gap between pure decrim<strong>in</strong>alization <strong>an</strong>d police authority <strong>in</strong>volves, especially for overpoliced<br />

m<strong>in</strong>ority communities…<br />

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Notably, the trial <strong>an</strong>d appellate courts decided the case on Fourth Amendment <strong>an</strong>d state<br />

constitutional grounds. The Supreme Court of Wash<strong>in</strong>gton, however, stressed that it need<br />

not address the complexities of the constitutional issues because it had a statute at its<br />

disposal del<strong>in</strong>eat<strong>in</strong>g police authority dur<strong>in</strong>g civili<strong>an</strong> detentions based on noncrim<strong>in</strong>al<br />

traffic offenses.283 Therefore, the court was able to prevent the pedestri<strong>an</strong>’s noncrim<strong>in</strong>al<br />

traffic violation from serv<strong>in</strong>g as a gateway <strong>in</strong>to the crim<strong>in</strong>al justice system <strong>in</strong> light of this<br />

exist<strong>in</strong>g statute. As expla<strong>in</strong>ed <strong>in</strong>fra Part V.B, exp<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g conceptions of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization<br />

beyond s<strong>an</strong>ctions to capture police authority might open possibilities for more of these<br />

types of Restrictions.<br />

Unfortunately, the decision of the Supreme Court of Wash<strong>in</strong>gton had the opposite effect.<br />

After the court’s decision, the Wash<strong>in</strong>gton Legislature amended the statute to permit<br />

officers to “check for outst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g warr<strong>an</strong>ts” dur<strong>in</strong>g stops <strong>in</strong>volv<strong>in</strong>g <strong>an</strong>y traffic<br />

<strong>in</strong>fraction.284 After the amendment, courts upheld the authority of police officers to check<br />

for outst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g warr<strong>an</strong>ts aga<strong>in</strong>st the backdrop of both noncrim<strong>in</strong>al traffic violations<br />

<strong>in</strong>volv<strong>in</strong>g vehicles285 as well as the noncrim<strong>in</strong>al jaywalk<strong>in</strong>g violation.286 Thus, on one<br />

h<strong>an</strong>d, the amendment illustrates the unwill<strong>in</strong>gness of some lawmak<strong>in</strong>g bodies to restrict<br />

opportunities for police to control civili<strong>an</strong>s through access to personal <strong>in</strong>formation <strong>in</strong> ways<br />

that have possible crim<strong>in</strong>al ramifications, <strong>in</strong> spite of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization efforts…<br />

(Woods,2014)<br />

Wash<strong>in</strong>gton state’s efforts to decrim<strong>in</strong>alize serves as a warn<strong>in</strong>g to researchers. Even when it seems<br />

that successes have been achieved without address<strong>in</strong>g the social <strong>in</strong>frastructure around prohibition,<br />

short term policy victories face the possibility of produc<strong>in</strong>g net-widen<strong>in</strong>g effects <strong>an</strong>d even be<strong>in</strong>g<br />

rolled back <strong>in</strong> its entirety. Colorado shows that a police force motivated by a desire to enforce laws<br />

<strong>in</strong> a discrim<strong>in</strong>atory m<strong>an</strong>ner c<strong>an</strong> f<strong>in</strong>d justification even <strong>in</strong> the face of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization. As net<br />

widen<strong>in</strong>g effects will likely dull enthusiasm for decrim<strong>in</strong>alization, the effects should be studied<br />

<strong>an</strong>d <strong>an</strong>alyzed <strong>in</strong>-depth. If the presence of net widen<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> Pr<strong>in</strong>ce George’s County <strong>in</strong> regards to<br />

c<strong>an</strong>nabis decrim<strong>in</strong>alization were mirrored <strong>in</strong> Baltimore City or other <strong>Maryl<strong>an</strong>d</strong> jurisdictions,<br />

researchers might do well to <strong>an</strong>alyze what this could me<strong>an</strong> for the possibility of the<br />

decrim<strong>in</strong>alization of other drugs <strong>in</strong> <strong>Maryl<strong>an</strong>d</strong>. This may be a fruitful avenue for further research.<br />

At a fundamental level, researchers should underst<strong>an</strong>d that, despite the seductive desire to<br />

fall <strong>in</strong>to the st<strong>an</strong>dard model of decrim<strong>in</strong>alization research, <strong>an</strong> issue as comprehensive as the history<br />

of the carceral state of violence requires comprehensive <strong>an</strong>alysis. There is no one Afric<strong>an</strong>-centered<br />

research paradigm, nor is there a static set of f<strong>in</strong>d<strong>in</strong>gs that research us<strong>in</strong>g these methodologies<br />

must produce. <strong>Research</strong>ers must use all the tools at their disposal to provide the most accurate<br />

<strong>in</strong>formation available on the topics they set out to underst<strong>an</strong>d. More th<strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>yth<strong>in</strong>g, the Afrocentric<br />

research paradigm argues that exist<strong>in</strong>g methodologies, despite their illusions of objectivity, are<br />

woefully lack<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> their attempt to provide comprehensive <strong>an</strong>alysis of issues. Despite<br />

mischaracterizations of Afric<strong>an</strong>-centered research paradigms as be<strong>in</strong>g d<strong>an</strong>gerously “non-<br />

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objective,” they are essential to correct the bias tacit embedded with<strong>in</strong> the current system. It is<br />

underst<strong>an</strong>dable that researchers might w<strong>an</strong>t to project the Portugal decrim<strong>in</strong>alization experiment<br />

<strong>in</strong> the most positive light possible, but our underst<strong>an</strong>d<strong>in</strong>g of the d<strong>an</strong>gers of apply<strong>in</strong>g this model to<br />

the United States shows how necessary Afric<strong>an</strong>-centered research is as a corrective to the bias<br />

with<strong>in</strong> contemporary research. <strong>Research</strong>ers must rema<strong>in</strong> humble <strong>in</strong> the face of address<strong>in</strong>g such a<br />

complex issue, will<strong>in</strong>g to adjust <strong>an</strong>d readjust their preconceived notions <strong>in</strong> relation to their research<br />

process. More th<strong>an</strong> <strong>an</strong>yth<strong>in</strong>g, the admonition of scholars of Afric<strong>an</strong> descent that all research is<br />

political must be remembered. This may feel like a daunt<strong>in</strong>g realization for researchers acclimated<br />

to the belief of themselves as dispassionate arbiters of objective data. <strong>Research</strong>ers should put this<br />

realization <strong>in</strong>to context: white supremacy is a global system of control which precedes the<br />

contemporary era by at least 500 years. A recognition of the political role of research is not a<br />

dem<strong>an</strong>d to address whtie supremacy <strong>in</strong> its totality with complete accuracy. Such th<strong>in</strong>k<strong>in</strong>g actually<br />

over-estimates the role of the research, posit<strong>in</strong>g them as hold<strong>in</strong>g the responsibility to “save”<br />

oppressed communities with their research. The goal of the researcher is to do their small piece to<br />

produce knowledge which expla<strong>in</strong>s to the world how white supremacy has <strong>in</strong>hibited the ability for<br />

communities to save themselves <strong>an</strong>d to use data, coupled with <strong>in</strong>tense <strong>an</strong>alysis, to present<br />

advocates <strong>an</strong>d lawmakers with the tools to help restore that capacity. The hope is that this <strong>an</strong>alysis,<br />

<strong>an</strong>d the tools presented here<strong>in</strong>, c<strong>an</strong> set researchers on the path towards achiev<strong>in</strong>g this goal.<br />

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