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Five Grams Of Coke

Racism, Moralism And White Public Opinion Influence Sanctions For First Time Possession

Three out of four white Americans believe drug users should get treatment, not prison time, a nationally representative survey has found.

The minority of whites who support sending people possessing illegal drugs to prison are more likely to make moral judgments about drug users, more likely to blame addicts for their addiction, more likely to deny that racism is a problem in the US, and more likely to believe -- incorrectly -- that blacks are more likely to use cocaine than whites.

The researchers measured moral values by asking respondents how strongly they agreed or disagreed with two statements: Drug users are evil; and if people took their religion more seriously they would not become addicted to drugs.

The researchers measured racial beliefs about drugs by asking respondents whether they thought blacks or whites were more likely to use cocaine.

Racial attitudes were tested by asking respondents to agree or disagree with two statements: Discrimination against African-Americans is no longer a problem in the United States; and over the past few years, African-Americans have gotten more economically than they deserve.

Respondents were also asked if they were conservative or liberal, if they felt that law enforcement was effective in reducing the demand for and supply of drugs in America; and whether or not they believed that drug addicts have only themselves to blame for their addiction.

Conducted by Drs. Rosalyn Lee and Kenneth Rasinski at the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center, Five Grams of Coke was published in the June issue of the International Journal of Drug Policy.

The study is part of a larger survey of public attitudes toward substance abuse whose results will be published later.

The survey asked what should be the appropriate sanction for a first-time offender charged with possession of five grams of cocaine. The study found that an absolute majority of whites -- 51% -- favored drug treatment, 26% favored probation, and only 23% favored sending him to prison.

Regarding imprisonment, the survey gave respondents two choices: one year or five years.

The survey found that only 5.5% were so punitive as to support a five-year sentence for first-time drug possession, while 17.6% supported a one-year sentence.

Source: The Drug War Chronicle

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