Societal Effects Of The Anti-Drug Abuse Act Of 1986


The Anti-Drug Abuse Act Of 1986 all came to light after the death of Len Bias, who was once an up and coming basketball star that was said to be the next Michael Jordan. Less than a day after he signed a deal to play for the Boston Celtics, he died of a cocaine overdose. This made lawmakers and the president take notice of the drug laws in the United States. The Anti-Drug Act Of 1986 was passed into law in just a few short months after Bias death. This law imposed minimum sentences to drug offenders depending on the amount at the time of arrest.

They sold the bill as one that would get high-level traffickers of the streets but all it really did was filled the prison system with low level ones. The minimum sentences put basically addicts and people that deal to make some extra money in prison, while other high level traffickers walk free. The government has the resources to get the high level dealers, if they look at the banks and businesses used to launder the money but they would rather make an example of people on the lower side of the war on drugs.

The population in federal prisons in 1986 was around thirty six thousand people but today it is well over two hundred thousand because of the federal laws in place for drug dealers. With the over twenty five thousand cases that they handle in a year only about one and four of the defendants are white and the rest are minorities. It wasn’t that they law was racists but it singled out minorities because there where harsher sentencing on crack cocaine, which was said to be a black problem in the 80s. The main problem with this act was that it wasn’t thought out and was rushed into law.

There was a major amendment that was passed in 2010 to help lighten the sentence of people that processed crack cocaine and powder cocaine. The Fair Sentencing Act lowered the ratio from 100 to 1 to 18 to 1 for the minimum sentence of five years for offenders. This is a start in the right direction to help reform the laws that were made in 1986 but we are still a long way from winning this war on drugs and it can’t be done if no one takes a stand and pushes for better laws.


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