This Friday marks the 45th anniversary of one of the most controversial and criticized crime-reduction policies in our nation’s history. On June 17, 1971 Richard Nixon’s administration published a special message from the President to the Congress on Drug Abuse Prevention and Control declaring drug abuse as “public enemy number one” in the U.S. The message included language about devoting more federal resources to this cause, in the hopes of “prevention of new addicts, and the rehabilitation of those who are addicted.” While that goal seemed to be born of the noble intentions, the resulting policy, widely known as the “War on Drugs,” has played out less as a strategy to protect people from the perils of substance abuse and more as a witch hunt, vilifying any connection to drugs and lumping minor offenders in with serious criminals. In addition to costing the U.S. roughly $51 billion annually to maintain, the War on Drugs leans heavily on the cooperation of confidential informants. Law enforcement recruits these informants by leveraging their own (often minor) drug offenses to compel them to cooperate. While acting as an informant is often portrayed to minor drug offenders as a path toward retribution and reduction of punishments, the glaring reality remains that these practices frequently thrust largely defenseless, unaware young offenders into dangerous circumstances. “Today’s drug war involves a countless number of confidential informants – many of which are young people who are busted for a small amount of drugs and then coerced into making much higher-level deals, putting them in very dangerous situations” says Derek Rosenfeld of the Drug Policy Alliance. The DPA, the leading organization in the U.S. working on alternatives to the Drug War, has spent years fighting for more sensible drug abuse prevention policies. As the DPA’s Tony Newman explains, “There are so many sick aspects of the failed drug war, but law enforcement forcing people with a drug arrest to choose between a draconian prison sentence or becoming an informant is one of the most nauseating.”Beginning with an “Action Day” pre-party today and running through Sunday, The Purple Hatter’s Ball at Spirit of Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL this weekend aims to call attention to one such case—the tragic story of Rachel Morningstar Hoffman. After being arrested for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, Hoffman, a 23-year-old FSU graduate, was compelled to participate in a large-scale buy-bust operation involving 1,500 ecstasy pills, 2 ounces of cocaine, a handgun, and $13,000 cash. The deal went south, and Hoffman was murdered in the process. In her memory, the Purple Hatter’s Ball seeks to increase awareness of ongoing miscarriages of justice under the umbrella of the War on Drugs, inspire reform to drug-related policies like the Confidential Informant Law, and inspire people to lead healthier, safer lives in the live music community and beyond.How One Mother Turned Tragedy Into Triumph: The Rachel Morningstar Hoffman StoryFor more information on Rachel Morningstar Hoffman and the Purple Hatter’s Ball, visit the festival’s website.