Drug use discrimination is the unequal treatment people experience because of the drugs they use. People who use or have used illicit drugs may face discrimination in employment, welfare, housing, child custody, and travel, in addition to imprisonment, asset forfeiture, and in some cases forced labor, torture, and execution. Though often prejudicially stereotyped as deviants and misfits, most drug users are well-adjusted and productive members of society. Drug prohibitions may have been partly motivated by racism and other prejudice against minorities, and racial disparities have been found to exist in the enforcement and prosecution of drug laws. Discrimination due to illicit drug use was the most commonly reported type of discrimination among Blacks and Latinos in a 2003 study of minority drug users in New York City, double to triple that due to race. People who use legal drugs such as tobacco and prescription medications may also face discrimination.
Punitive approaches to drug policy are severely undermining human rights in every region of the world. They lead to the erosion of civil liberties and fair trial standards, the stigmatization of individuals and groups – particularly women, young people, and ethnic minorities – and the imposition of abusive and inhumane punishments.
Although still illegal at the federal level, about half of U.S. states have legalized marijuana for medical use and several of those states have laws, or are considering legislation, specifically protecting medical marijuana patients from discrimination in such areas as education, employment, housing, child custody, and organ transplantation.
Drugs (especially opioids and stimulants) can change the motivational patterns of a person and lead to desocialization and degradation of personality. Acquisition of the drugs some times involves black market activities and leads to criminal social circle.
Lack of objective information about drugs
An important role in the process of discrimination is played by the lack of objective information about drug addiction and drug addicts, caused by legislative barriers to scientific research, the displacement of such information by propaganda of various kinds.
Drugs and HIV infection
Among injecting drug users, the incidence of HIV infection is higher than among other drug addicts, however punitive and discriminatory measures against drug addicts are not able to eliminate either the spread of drug addiction or HIV.
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^Della Costa, Chloe (2015-06-15). "How Employee Drug Testing Targets the Poor and Minorities". The Cheat Sheet. Retrieved 2015-07-02."Roughly 40% of U.S. employees are subjected to drug testing during the hiring process. The rate of employee drug testing has increased 277% since 1987, and drug testing has even expanded to welfare programs in some states."
^Dehghan, Saeed Kamali (2012-06-25). "Iranian pair face death penalty after third alcohol offence". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-07-01."Under Iranian Sharia law, certain crimes such as sodomy, rape, theft, fornication, apostasy and consumption of alcohol for the third time are considered to be "claims of God" and therefore have mandatory death sentences."
^Nicholson, T; White, J; Duncan, D (1998-11-01). "Drugnet: A Pilot Study of Adult Recreational Drug Use via the WWW". Substance Abuse. 19 (3): 109–121. doi:10.1080/08897079809511380. PMID12511811. This survey further documents the existence of a nonclinical population of drug users which is generally healthy, well-adjusted, and productive.
^Block, Frederic (2013-01-03). "Racism's Hidden History in the War on Drugs". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-07-05. A 1914 New York Times article proclaimed: "Negro Cocaine 'Fiends' Are a New Southern Menace: Murder and Insanity Increasing Among Lower Class Blacks Because They Have Taken to 'Sniffing.'" A Literary Digest article from the same year claimed that "most of the attacks upon women in the South are the direct result of the cocaine-crazed Negro brain." It comes as no surprise that 1914 was also the year Congress passed the Harrison Tax Act, effectively outlawing opium and cocaine.
^Staples, Brent (2014-07-29). "The Federal Marijuana Ban Is Rooted in Myth and Xenophobia". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-07-05. As the legal scholars Richard Bonnie and Charles Whitebread explain in their authoritative history, "The Marihuana Conviction," the drug’s popularity among minorities and other groups practically ensured that it would be classified as a "narcotic," attributed with addictive qualities it did not have, and set alongside far more dangerous drugs like heroin and morphine.
^Sandy, Kathleen R. (2003). "The Discrimination Inherent in America's Drug War: Hidden Racism Revealed by Examining the Hysteria over Crack"(PDF). Alabama Law Review. 54 (2): 665–693. Retrieved 2015-07-05. Myths about the "superhuman strength, cunning and efficiency" of the Negro on cocaine flourished in the South. Such myths included ideas such as cocaine induced Black men to rape White women, cocaine improved Black marksmanship, and cocaine made Blacks impervious to .32 caliber bullets ("caus[ing] southern police departments to switch to .38 caliber revolvers").
^McKinley Jr., James (2014-07-08). "Study Finds Racial Disparity in Criminal Prosecutions". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-07-06. One of the starkest disparities emerged in the prosecution of misdemeanor drug crimes like possession of marijuana or cocaine. The study found blacks were 27 percent more likely than whites to receive jail or prison time for misdemeanor drug offenses, while Hispanic defendants were 18 percent more likely to be incarcerated for those crimes.
^Kurtzleben, Danielle (2010-08-03). "Data Show Racial Disparity in Crack Sentencing". U.S. News and World Report. Archived from the original on 2015-07-06. Retrieved 2015-07-06. According to U.S. Sentencing Commission figures, no class of drug is as racially skewed as crack in terms of numbers of offenses. According to the commission, 79 percent of 5,669 sentenced crack offenders in 2009 were black, versus 10 percent who were white and 10 percent who were Hispanic.
^Berman, Douglas; Protass, Harlan (2013-07-29). "Obama Can Fix the Race Gap in Sentencing Law". Slate. Retrieved 2015-07-06. ...from 1988 to 1995 not a single white person was charged with crack-related crimes in 17 states, including major cities such as Boston, Denver, Chicago, Miami, Dallas, and Los Angeles.
^Minor, T; Galea, S; Ahern, J; Ompad, D (Fall 2003). "Racial differences in discrimination experiences and responses among minority substance users". Ethnicity & Disease. 13 (4): 521–7. PMID14632272. 500 Black and 419 Latino active substance users.
^A. G., Sulszberger (2011-02-11). "Hospitals Shift Smoking Bans to Smoker Ban". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-07-04. Smokers have been turned away from jobs in the past — prompting more than half the states to pass laws rejecting bans on smokers — but the recent growth in the number of companies adopting no-smoker rules has been driven by a surge of interest among health care providers, according to academics, human resources experts and tobacco opponents. "Some even prohibit nicotine patches."
^Hargrove, Dorian (2011-01-19). "Antismoking Law: Where Do the Smoker's Rights End?". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 2015-07-04. According to the American Lung Association’s Center for Tobacco Policy and Organizing, 12 cities and 1 county in California have adopted ordinances that ban smoking in some percentage of multiunit apartment buildings.
^Katie, Zezima; Goodnough, Abby (2010-10-24). "Drug Testing Poses Quandary for Employers". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-07-04. What companies consider an effort to maintain a safe work environment is drawing complaints from employees who cite privacy concerns and contend that they should not be fired for taking legal medications, sometimes for injuries sustained on the job.
^Doug Bandow (2012). "From Fighting the Drug War to Protecting the Right to Use Drugs - Recognizing a Forgotten Liberty". Towards a Worldwide Index of Human Freedom(PDF). Chapter 10. Fraser Institute. pp. 253–280. Archived from the original(PDF) on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-07-01.
^Benjamin, Mark (2011-06-02). "Commission: Drugs Win War on Drugs". Time. Retrieved 2015-07-01."End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others."