Home / News / The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Top 10 U.S. Drug Policy Stories of 2017

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: The Top 10 U.S. Drug Policy Stories of 2017

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It was the best of times; it was the misfortune of times. Tens of thousands died of drug overdoses, hundreds of thousands were arrested for drugs, nonetheless pot is seeing bang times. As we bid adieu to 2017, here are the year’s drug policy highlights.

1. The Opioid Crisis Deepens, With Overdose Deaths at an All-Time High

The country’s opioid predicament showed no signs of reducing in 2017, with the Centers for Disease Control estimating 66,000 overdose deaths this year, up from 63,000 in 2016. To be clear, only about two-thirds of deadly drug overdoses are related to heroin and medication opioids, but opioid overdoses surged in 2016 by 28%. It’s too early for final information on 2017 overdoses, but there is little reason to doubt that opioids were pushing the boost this year. The high levels of overdose deaths have led to a tumble in US life outlook for the past two years, only the third time that has happened in the past century.


2. Fentanyl Is Killing More and More People

The absolute fake opioid fentanyl and its analogs are concerned in an increasingly vast series of opioid overdose deaths. While deaths involving medication opioids are decreasing, fentanyl-related deaths have increasing by an normal of 88% a year given 2013. Illicitly alien fentanyl from labs in China or Mexico is churned with heroin with fatal results: Half of the boost in heroin-related overdose deaths is attributable to heroin cut with fentanyl, the CDC reported in September. There were scarcely 20,000 deaths attributable to fentanyl and other unlawful opioids in 2016; the 2017 numbers are likely to be even worse.

3. Key Federal Drug Policy Positions Remain Unfilled, and Kellyanne Is in Charge

The Trump administration has not nominated anyone to conduct the DEA, and the organisation is now being led by Acting Administrator Robert Patterson after Chuck Rosenberg, the behaving director when Trump took office, quiescent in September, observant he didn’t wish to work with the administration any longer. Similarly, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP, the drug czar’s office) is but a permanent conduct after Trump’s nominee, Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Tom Marino went down in abandon in Oct in the arise of reports he destined a check by Congress that detained the DEA from going after curative drug distributors. Neither the White House nor anyone else seems very meddlesome in stuffing the position, maybe given progressing in the year, Trump floated the idea of slicing ONDCP’s check by scarcely 95%. But not to worry: Trump pollster, advisor and apologist Kellyanne Conway is now heading the administration’s fight against opioids—even nonetheless she has no open health knowledge whatsoever.

4. Attorney General Sessions Revives the Federal War on Drugs…

Under President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder presided over a ratcheting down of oppressive sovereign drug prosecutions and sentences, but stream Attorney General Jeff Sessions is doing his best to remove those reforms. In May, Sessions announced that he had destined sovereign prosecutors to find the many critical penalties probable in drug cases, including imperative smallest sentences.

5. …But Fails to Implement a War on Weed

For all the wailing, gnashing of teeth and apocalyptic predictions of a Sessions fight on weed, it hasn’t happened. The profession ubiquitous has done no secret of his dislike for the demon weed, but that has nonetheless to translate into any organisation policy positions or sovereign crackdowns on pot in states where it is legal, for possibly medical or recreational use. Congressional movement continues to bar the use of Justice Department supports to go after medical marijuana, but there was no bar on going after state-legal recreational marijuana, nonetheless it didn’t happen. Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee in Nov that the Obama-era Cole memo stays in effect. That memo leads prosecutors to flattering much leave state-legal pot alone solely for specified concerns, such as the impasse of youth, violence, or diversion. Later in November, Sessions pronounced the Justice Department was still examining the Cole memo, but so far, so good.

6. Legal Marijuana’s $10 Billion Year

In December, pot marketplace watchers Arcview Market Research estimated that sell pot sales would hit $10 billion in 2017, up 33% over 2016. But that’s just the beginning, Arcview said. With outrageous recreational markets such as California (pop. 39 million) and Canada (36 million) coming online next year, the organisation expects North American sales to top $24.5 billion by 2021. It’s tough even for a pot-hating profession ubiquitous to get in front of that mercantile juggernaut.

7. Pot Is More Popular than Ever

Just ask Gallup. The princely polling organisation has been tracking support for pot legalization given 1969, when it was at just 12%. In its latest poll, from October, Gallup now has support for pot legalization at 64%. What is really considerable is the fast boost in support in the past 20 years: In 1996, support was at 25%; by  2012, it had doubled to 50%; and it’s gained another 14 points in the 5 years since. Other pollsters are stating identical stream levels of support for pot legalization. And this could be another reason the profession ubiquitous hesitates to moment down on weed.

8. No State Legalized Weed, But 2018 Should Be Different

After 2016 saw pot legalization initiatives win in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada—losing only in Arizona—anticipation was high that 2017 would see some-more states come aboard. It didn’t happen. There are two explanations for this: First, it was an off-off election year and no initiatives were on the ballot, and second, it’s tough to pierce controversial legislation by the state house. Still, the Vermont legislature actually upheld a legalization bill, only to see it vetoed by a Republican governor, and that administrator now says he is prepared to sign a legalization bill. That could occur as early as next month. Likewise, a series of other states saw legalization bills make critical progress, and we could see those efforts come to delight in places like Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. And 2018 will many likely see at slightest one legalization initiative. Activists in Michigan have already handed in signatures and should have adequate of a pillow to validate for the ballot.

9. Safe Injection Sites in the U.S. Draw Ever Nearer

The mistreat rebate involvement has been proven to save lives, boost open health and open safety, and get hardcore drug users in hold with medical and social service help, and the summary is finally on the verge of getting by in the U.S. At slightest two major West Coast cities, San Francisco and Seattle, are advancing plans to open such facilities—although not but fixed opposition—and, under the on-going care of immature Mayor Svante Myrick, Ithaca, New York, is making identical plans.

10. The War on Drugs Rolls On

Despite the legalization of medical and/or recreational pot in several states, despite several sentencing reforms at the state and sovereign level, despite the flourishing recognition that “we can’t detain the way out of this problem,” the drug fight just keeps on going. The FBI expelled its annual Uniform Crime Report in November, and while the numbers are from 2016, this year’s numbers are doubtful to be any better. More than 600,000 people got arrested for pot offenses in 2016, down from a rise of scarcely 800,000 in 2007, but still up by 75,000 or 12% over 2015. It’s the same story with altogether drug arrests: While sum drug detain numbers appearance at just under 1.9 million a year in 2006 and 2007—just forward of the rise in jail population—and had been trending downward ever since, they bumped up again last year to 1.57 million, a 5.6% boost over 2015.


Phillip Smith is editor of the AlterNet Drug Reporter and author of the Drug War Chronicle.

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