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    The war on drugs is just one part of a larger criminal justice system that many believe is ill-conceived and dysfunctional. An organized approach to reforming America’s criminal justice system and ending its recent history of mass incarceration starts with Congress. In 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to create a national commission to study the U.S. criminal justice system and make recommendations for reform, but it was never voted on in the Senate. The same act failed to pass the Senate by just three votes in 2011. The Commission, which stands to be reintroduced this year, would have as its agenda the thorough examination of over-incarceration, wrongful convictions, failed drug war policies, racial disparities, and more, before then making recommendations for reform.

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    A majority of U.S. citizens supports alternatives to our current marijuana laws, yet marijuana arrests remain the driving engine of America’s war on drugs. Nearly half of all drug arrests annually are for marijuana-related offenses, the overwhelming majority of which are for personal possession. These arrests fall disproportionately on Blacks and Latinos, although whites consume marijuana at the same rate or higher. Many of those who are arrested are then saddled with a criminal conviction that can make it difficult or impossible to vote, obtain educational loans, get a job, secure housing, or even adopt a child. Additionally, the huge number of marijuana arrests each year diverts scarce law enforcement, criminal justice, and treatment resources at enormous cost to U.S. taxpayers. Several states have passed or are considering laws that decriminalize or legalize marijuana.

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