Criminalization and Drug "Wars" or Medicalization and Health "Epidemics": How Race, Class, and Neoliberal Politics Influence Drug Laws

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Cindy Brooks Dollar, Assistant Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: This essay argues that race and class influence drug laws through politicized means. Crack-cocaine and methamphetamine production, sales, and use were met with criminalizing efforts because of their respective association with African Americans and poor Whites, two groups that have been differentially identified as threatening to hegemonic power. Despite some similarities in criminalizing outcomes, specific reactions differed. Crack-cocaine's publicized connection to violence resulted in extensive surveillance, arrest, and imprisonment. Attention surrounding methamphetamine, however, often linked the drug to safety hazards, including property explosions, physical distortions of users, and the pathology of un(der)employment. As a result, policing the methamphetamine problem increased detentions but not to the same extent as crack-cocaine. I contend that the current opioid "epidemic" has received more medicalized reactions due to opiate's association to middle- and upper-class Whites—social groups that are traditionally protected. I conclude by proposing that despite nuanced and unique consequences of criminalizing and medicalizing responses, each reflects a neoliberalist agenda that seeks to diffuse social threat and reinforce prevailing inequalities.

Additional Information

Critical Criminology
Language: English
Date: 2018
Drug laws, Criminalization, Class, Politics, Race, Inequalities, Crack-cocaine, Methamphetamine, Opioids

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