Nation should revise its current drug laws
I’m pleased to see at last a broad opening up of the discussion of our country’s failed “war on drugs.” I recently attended a conference in Buffalo, titled “Leading the Way: Toward a Public Health & Safety Approach to Drug Policy in New York.” Presented by the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy at the University at Buffalo and the Drug Policy Alliance, it began by viewing and discussing the award-winning documentary: “The House I Live In,” which chronicled the ravages to the lives of people and communities ground up by our current policies toward illicit drugs.
The thrust of the conference was that current state and federal drug policies are a failure, and cause more harm than good. We need to shift from a criminal justice-centered punitive approach to a public health and safety approach. This emphasizes helping individuals who need it, while limiting the collateral damage caused by the criminal justice system approach.
This is an evidence-based approach that provides real benefits to the community – both in helping troubled individuals, as well as freeing up police and the court system to prosecute serious crimes. It would especially help reduce the damage done to low-income communities, where young men are drawn into the drug culture as one of the few economic opportunities open to them. Once they have a felony conviction, they are mostly barred for life from any legal employment prospects.
As evidenced by the May 5 Viewpoints articles – one by Dr. Robert Whitney, warning of the dangers of marijuana legalization, and one by Froma Harrop, calling for its legalization, this is a timely topic that generates a lot of interest. The states of Colorado and Washington are experimenting with legalization, and other states are considering related actions toward decriminalization. I’m hoping that out of these discussions we will be able to move ahead with more just, fair and humane policies that will benefit all our communities.
Eric A. Gallion