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Sermon Series: 50th Anniversary of the War on Drugs

June 17, 2021, will mark 50 years since U.S. President Richard Nixon declared drugs to be “public enemy number one,” launching a national campaign to criminalize drug use. War on drugs policies have led to mass incarceration, civil liberties abuses, over-policing and mistreatment of people of color, and human rights violations in the United States and around the world. Meanwhile, nearly 500,000 people died in the United States alone from opioid overdose in from 1999 to 2019, with death rates still accelerating steadily. 

To mark this milestone, faith leaders, as part of Open Society grantee Faith in Harm Reduction’s sermon series, will memorialize the victims of the war on drugs and affirm that people who use drugs are deserving of life, dignity, and rights. Live streaming, recordings, and a full listing of the sermon series will be available here. The first speakers in the series will be Reverend Edwin C. Sanders II and Rabbi Daniel Burg, presenting sermons on June 17 and 19, respectively. Additional speakers are expected to be added on an ongoing basis.

This collaboration is part of a series of ongoing panel discussions and events that the Open Society Foundations will host or support to spotlight the 50th anniversary of the unjust and racist “war on drugs,” initiated by President Richard Nixon. The United States has spent billions of dollars on expanding its criminal justice infrastructure to accommodate increasingly aggressive policing, encouraged other countries to adopt oppressive drug policies, and has devastated Black and brown communities, even as levels of drug dependence and overdose deaths have spiraled out of control. Join us in holding our leaders accountable and promoting drug policies guided by social justice, public health, and human rights.


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