Brigham Young University Prelaw Review


Racism, Opioids, Executive Order, Trump, Illicit Drugs, Implicit Bias, Drug Laws, Opioid Crisis, Opioid Epidemic, Health Crisis, Public Health, Incarceration, Drug Addiction


Within the past century, the United States attempted different legal

avenues to address drug abuse. Some of these efforts made access

to drugs punishable and illegal. Others encouraged research to look

at underlying issues of drug abuse and implement those findings.

Within the past fifty years, these laws tended to treat drug addicts

as criminals instead of as persons suffering from a health crisis.

According to the FBI and Uniform Crime Reports, from the 1980’s

to the 2000’s, drug arrests rose by 1.5 million per year, while drug

usage rates stayed the same.3 The severe increase in the criminalization

and incarceration surrounding drug exploited underprivileged

minorities, specifically persons of color. Lawsuits and lobbying

brought attention to these injustices. However, a heavy bias in drugrelated

crime still persists. The penalization of drug crime historically

has been a vehicle for implicit and explicit racism.