Who ever heard of a female drug lord? As the terms “kingpin” and “drug lord” denote, men are almost always at the head of major drug operations, and yet the rate of imprisonment of women for drug crimes has far outpaced that of men. Families and children suffer – but why? Either we have turned a blind eye or we simply misunderstand women’s experiences with drugs. This report begins a new dialogue and insists on answers to questions about women and drugs, and the laws and policies that should be in place.

Federal and state drug laws and policies over the past twenty years have had specific, devastating, and disparate effects on women, and particularly on women of color and low-income women. These effects require further study and careful consideration as state and federal decision-makers evaluate existing and prospective drug laws and policies.

Reliance on the criminal justice system to reduce the use, abuse, and sale of illegal drugs has had little effect on the supply and demand for these drugs in the United States. It has, however, led to skyrocketing rates of incarceration of women.