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Drug Policy Alliance
New York, NY (Headquarters)
givvers: jason, tweaks

The Drug Policy Alliance Network (DPA Network) is the nation’s leading organization promoting policy alternatives to the drug war that are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

Our supporters are individuals who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. Together we advance policies that reduce the harms of both drug misuse and drug prohibition, and seek solutions that promote safety while upholding the sovereignty of individuals over their own minds and bodies. We work to ensure that our nation’s drug policies no longer arrest, incarcerate, disenfranchise and otherwise harm millions of nonviolent people. Our work inevitably requires us to address the disproportionate impact of the drug war on people of color.

Drug Policy Alliance is a 501(c)3 organization.

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I first see her seven years ago, eyes brighter than the florescent lights of Broadway up the street from DPA-HQ.  She’s an intern, but she takes over.  All those pushy questions, and steady of her love for we whose voices had been diminished or twisted beyond coherence, when they were heard at all. It was like drug policy reform was getting a makeover, Dahomey-style. But Kassandra Frederique, Upper West Side by way of Haiti, a family girl and Ivy grad, wanted to know more because she wanted to know freedom.

As we say, She Who Learns Must Teach, which is why it’s not surprising that two years ago Kassandra pushed DPA to start a Black History Month series that raised up the names and the work of those who’d been erased or relegated to footnotes in history. This year as we focus on Black women who toil outside of the spotlight, but without whom little would get done, the newly appointed head of DPA’s New York Policy Office drops it on white supremacy, women and why we have to have the courage to tell the truth.

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KF: 2012 was a seminal year for me. It began with the killing of Ramarley Graham, a young brother shot to death by police in his bathroom as his grandma and little brother watched. The early reporting said the police officers saw him doing a hand-to-hand marijuana sale, and later, that there supposedly a gun. None of that was substantiated.

I was in the midst of our marijuana decriminalization campaign and wondered what would it mean if we talked about Ramarley? Was it exploitative to say that policing around marijuana led to his death? It felt messy and wrong.  I was co-managing the campaign and made the decision not to do it, scared I’d hurt the family.  Then a couple of weeks later Trayvon Martin was killed.

I was devastated. Had I failed Trayvon by not making the connection between Ramarley’s killing and marijuana? The media was running stories that there were traces of marijuana in Trayvon’s system as though that justified killing him, but I knew in that moment if we didn’t connect the way the drug war was killing us, then we were complicit in disappearing their lives.

In 2013 I was at a reception for DPA at someone’s home. I was looking at a bunch of pictures on the wall.  There were lots of white faces, and then suddenly: one Black man. I asked Ethan who he was. And Ethan told me it was a picture of Troy Duster, a brother who in 1970 wrote Legislation of Morality, a seminal work that informed all of today’s reform leadership on the question of race and drugs.

I lost it.

I’d been working in drug policy since 2009 and for four years I’d felt a deep shame because all I’d heard was that no Black people had fought to end the drug war, that our leaders had simply called for draconian policies.  And when I realized that a Troy Duster existed I was shattered because I hadn’t questioned the narrative that had been given to me about us—even though we’re movement dedicated to shifting and challenging narratives!

This undertaking is all about ensuring that none of us—none of the truth—is disappeared, which is why I’m so grateful we’re focusing on sisters. Because we cannot ignore how white supremacy is gendered. There are very explicit ways in which drug policy affects sisters.  We’re vaginally searched in public on the claim that there’s marijuana in our bodies. We’re illegally drug tested when we go for checkups or are giving birth. Our motherhood is criminalized.  And even as we stand on the frontlines for our brothers, too often, they’re absent when we need them on the battlefield. So if we‘re going to talk about disappearances, we talk about the work and lives of Black women.

We’ve been foundational to all of our work for liberation. And my hope is that those who engage the series will sit a little taller—as I did—the day I learned the truth.

Kassandra Frederique is the director of the New York policy office at the Drug Policy Alliance.
asha bandele is the senior director of grants, partnerships and special projects at the Drug Policy Alliance.

*Editor’s note: This post is a part of the Black History Month series from the Drug Policy Alliance. See posts from the whole series, including past years, here.

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Author: asha bandele
Date Published: February 5, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

Last month, the government of the Brazilian state of São Paulo issued a statement that may signal the country’s path toward approving scientific research of psychoactive substances, including the medical use of the drug ibogaine.  This announcement marks the first instance of a government agency in South America to recognize the need to further evaluate the potential for psychoactive drugs like ibogaine to treat addiction.

For decades, researchers in Brazil have been seeking increased approval to use ibogaine, a drug derived from the West African shrub Tabernanthe iboga, in their work evaluating treatments for a variety of substance use disorders. Ibogaine became recognized in the late 1980’s and early 90’s as an ‘addiction interrupter’ and attention was given toward its use as a detoxification treatment for opiate dependency, with lasting effects that minimize physiological craving and psychological obsession for drugs like heroin and opioid painkillers for several weeks following a single treatment.

The recent statement, issued by Leonardo Arquimimo de Carvalho, the President of the São Paulo State Council on Drug Policy (CONED-SP), would allow them to move forward with their work.  It includes encouragement for clinical investigation of ibogaine and other synthetic and semisynthetic substances derived from T. iboga, calls for institutional funding for research, and permission for doctors and psychiatrists to use ibogaine to treat people with substance use disorders in São Paulo hospitals.

In 2009, Medsafe, New Zealand’s equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration, recommended classifying ibogaine as a prescription medicine, becoming the first and only other country in the world to officially recognize ibogaine’s efficacy for treatment of substance use disorders. While the United States Drug Enforcement Administration considers ibogaine a schedule I drug – having a high abuse potential and no evidence for medical use – most other countries have no specific laws controlling ibogaine. The governments of São Paulo and New Zealand have allowed restricted medical use of ibogaine, and there are many other countries where ibogaine is used to treat people with substance use and mental health disorders in legally operating clinics.

Conversation about ibogaine as an effective addiction treatment is beginning to open up in Central and South America.  Next month, the Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance (GITA) will host an international conference on ibogaine in Mexico, which will include a presentation by Bruno Rasmussen Chaves, a Brazilian doctor who has overseen more than 1,200 treatments in São Paulo hospitals under the currently existing guidelines.

While the U.S. has never authorized the use of ibogaine in humans, hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world have been treated for misuse of drugs like methamphetamine, alcohol, cocaine, as well as for mental health disorders like PTSD and depression. But just last week, legislators in Vermont filed a bill in the general assembly that would fund a clinical trial with ibogaine in the Green Mountain state. Vermont isn’t alone as many other states throughout the U.S. are struggling for ways to address the increasing public health demand for treating heroin addiction, as overdose rates are rising in cities throughout the northeast.

As empirical evidence continues to strengthen regarding ibogaine’s efficacy for treating opiate dependency, it may only be the beginning of what this remarkable drug could bring if restrictions were lifted on clinical research. The prohibition of drugs like ibogaine unjustly limit opportunities to evaluate a promising treatment, reflecting a criminal justice policy that does far more harm than good when it comes to what ought to be a public health approach to treating complex conditions like addiction.

Kevin Franciotti is a Program Associate at the Drug Policy Alliance.

Photo via Flickr.

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Author: Kevin Franciotti
Date Published: February 4, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

New York —According to data just released by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York City marijuana arrests in 2015 dropped to under 17,000 for the first time since 1996. The 16,590 arrests for low-level marijuana possession in 2015 is a 42% decline from the 26,386 in 2014 and a 67% drop from the nearly 51,000 arrests in 2011.
 
“New York is finally starting to shed its embarrassing distinction of being the marijuana arrest capital of the world,” said Kassandra Frederique, New York State Director at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Over the last twenty years, more than 700,000 lives were irrevocably harmed by our draconian marijuana arrest policies. We must repair the harms of marijuana prohibition and end the biased policing practices that have ruined the lives of so many young Black and Latino New Yorkers.”
 
In 2015, with the continuous advocacy of community members, advocates, and elected officials – the New York Police Department made 16,590 arrests for low level marijuana possession, down from a high of 26,386 in 2014. This continues a four year trend of declining marijuana possession arrest by the NYPD. Marijuana possession arrest numbers in New York City are the lowest they’ve been since 1996.  Though low level marijuana possession arrests have declined, the arrests remained racially disparate, with 88% of people arrested being Black and Latino, despite consistent government data that show young white men use at higher rates.
 
The reduction is a departure from the marijuana arrest crusade that had become the norm for the NYPD. NYPD made almost 700,000 marijuana arrests in the last 20 years and spent 1 million police hours from 2002 to 2012 enforcing marijuana prohibition. New York State spent $675 million enforcing marijuana prohibition in 2010 alone. In 2011, nearly 51,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession, more than the occupancy of Yankee Stadium.  Now, however, with 16,590 marijuana possession arrests in 2015, New York appears to have begun to turn a corner. However, much needs to be done to repair the damage these arrests have done, and to fix New York’s broken marijuana policies.
 
In the New York State legislature, Brooklyn Senator Daniel Squadron and East Harlem Assembly member Robert Rodriguez introduced the Fairness and Equity Act, legislation that would begin to address the collateral consequences associated with arrests, like sealing and vacating past marijuana convictions.
 
"The reduction in arrests for possessing small amounts of marijuana is an important step toward ending the racial disparities in marijuana enforcement," said State Senator Daniel Squadron. "It proves that fairer policies make a difference, which is why it's critical we pass my Fairness and Equity Act, to turn this policy into law across the state. I thank the Drug Policy Alliance, VOCAL –NY, and my colleagues for continuing their push."
 
“It's encouraging that the number of arrests and summonses for marijuana possession is decreasing; and the change in policy is yielding progress,” said Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez. “Yet, more can and should be done to end meaningless low level arrests of people of color. I have introduced the Fairness and Equity Act that will help to further reduce arrests across the state, and prevent the perpetual over criminalization that targets the youth in our minority communities.”

Increasingly, jurisdictions and legislators across the country, including here in New York, are realizing that marijuana prohibition has been ineffective, unjust, and disproportionately enforced and are working to implement policies that are fair and effective. Manhattan Senator Liz Krueger and Buffalo Assembly member Crystal Peoples-Stokes introduced the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which would create a system to tax and regulate marijuana for adults in a manner similar to alcohol.

“It’s heartening to see that arrests for marijuana possession are down significantly. But the numbers also show that enforcement continues to be heavily racialized, with communities of color bearing a disproportionate share of the costs, said State Senator Liz Krueger. “Marijuana prohibition is simply a failed policy. Allowing personal use, with appropriate regulation and taxation, will end the unacceptable racial disparities in arrests, allow law enforcement resources to go where they’re most needed, close off an underground criminal marketplace, and provide additional revenue and economic development opportunities throughout the state. That’s the kind of smart, responsible policy that our communities desperately need.”
 
“The reduction in arrests are a positive step forward, but the racial disparities that remain demonstrate the need for ending marijuana prohibition altogether, said Assemblywoman Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes.  “Marijuana prohibition has extensively harmed our communities and continues to do so. We should be learning from states like Washington and Colorado who have ended their investment in prohibition and instead create a system to tax and regulate marijuana.”
 
With these bills, an increasing number of New York elected officials are calling for a comprehensive solution to marijuana prohibition that includes enacting regulations, addressing collateral consequences, and setting up legislative accountability measures to impede racial disparities in enforcement of the law. The New York City Council already adopted both bills as a part of their Albany legislative agenda in 2015. Advocates and community members are increasing the pressure for New York to lead the nation with comprehensive marijuana reform that deliberately address the consequences for non-citizens, formerly incarcerated people, and people of color.
 
"Marijuana arrests are down and that is a good thing. However, New York still has a long way to go to catch up with the types of drug policy reforms that are making other states and municipalities more just and prosperous, said Alyssa Aguilera, Political Director, VOCAL-NY. “ I hope that Governor Cuomo and the NYS Legislature will move forward the Fairness & Equity Act and the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act - so that we can finally stop the needless arrests and cultivate economic opportunity across our state."

Author:
Date Published: February 4, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance | VOCAL-NY

According to data just released by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York City marijuana arrests in 2015 dropped to under 17,000 for the first time since 1996. The 16,590 arrests for low-level marijuana possession in 2015 is a 42% decline from the 26,386 in 2014 and a 67% drop from the nearly 51,000 arrests in 2011.

As we all know, the NYPD has been on a marijuana arrest crusade for the last 20 years. Spending billions of dollars and wasting one million police hours making nearly 700,000 arrests for low-level marijuana possession. What’s worse is that the vast majority of those arrested (86 percent) are young black and Latino New Yorkers, despite the fact that they use marijuana at lower rates than their white peers.

However, things slowly began to change in 2010 when VOCAL-NY, the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, the Center for NuLeadership, and the Drug Policy Alliance launched a multi-sector campaign to expose the racism and waste that’s at the heart of marijuana enforcement in New York. We published reports, rallied at Albany and City Hall, pushed for legislative fixes, and told the stories of individuals who had their lives upended because of a simple marijuana possession.

And now, we’re winning!

In 2015, marijuana arrests were at the lowest they’ve been since 1996, when George Pataki was Governor of New York and “Macarena” by Los Del Rio was the number one song on the Billboard Top 100.

Although we are pleased that marijuana arrests are down overall, we cannot yet declare “mission accomplished”. Simple marijuana possession arrests have been on the decline for the last four years, since we began our work, but they still remain 19 times the rate they were at the start of the 1990’s. Furthermore, despite the overall decline in arrests there’s been virtually no change in the racial dis-proportionality of the arrests with Black and Latino New Yorkers still making up nearly 90 percent of those arrested.

Meanwhile, states like Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska have already recognized the need to change the way they deal with marijuana. They’ve begun this process by creating a system to tax and regulate marijuana sales and use. Even Washington, D.C., a city that has seen similar racial disparities in the enforcement of marijuana prohibition, has seen over a 99 percent reduction in marijuana possession arrests (over their first 8 months of legalization).

As the country contemplates marijuana reform, New York has a second chance to enact policies that promote justice and economic growth and an opportunity to lead the way in repairing the harms that the drug war has already inflicted on low-income communities of color.

New York can do this by passing the Fairness and Equity Act and The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. These bills will honor the spirit and intent of the 1977 Decriminalization law by ending marijuana arrests for all instances of low-level marijuana possession, allow for investment in the communities that have been ravaged by prohibition, and address the collateral consequences that two decades of senseless marijuana arrests have created.

We are now back to where we started in 1996, except this time we know what happens when we embrace failed drug war tactics – it’s time for a new approach.

Kassandra Frederique is the director of the New York policy office of the Drug Policy Alliance.
Alyssa Aguilera is the political director of VOCAL-NY.

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Author: Kassandra Frederique and Alyssa Aguilera
Date Published: February 4, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

Today the Maine Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee held a hearing on legislation backed by the Attorney General that could roll back groundbreaking reforms passed last session that reduced drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor. The proposed legislation (LD 1554) would make possession of 30 milligrams (often less than one single pill) or more of prescription opioids and any amount of certain other drugs into felony offenses- continuing the criminalization of drug users and wasting scarce resources on incarceration instead of treatment and prevention. Under this proposed bill, users not engaged in any other type of illegal conduct would face mandatory felony prosecution for possessing even minuscule amounts of certain substances.  

“Addiction should be treated by healthcare professionals rather than the criminal justice system and, as a taxpayer and citizen of Maine, I would prefer our tax dollars go to prevention, treatment, and recovery, rather than mounting costly felony prosecutions against the users actively facing addiction” says Chris Poulos, a person in long term recovery who overcame addiction and federal incarceration to attend law school and work on criminal justice policy reform at the local, state, and federal levels.

In 2015, Maine enacted legislation that defelonized simple possession of small amounts of drugs. For first-time offenders, a judge would have the discretion to consider imposing a sentencing alternative that includes medical and mental health treatment for addiction, when appropriate. Advocates say criminalizing drug use and arresting drug users fails to make our communities safer and does nothing to ensure problematic drug users receive the treatment they need.

By making drug possession a felony offense legislators would be making it harder for people with drug problems to get treatment and reintegrate into society. People with felony convictions are commonly discriminated against in employment and housing and can be denied many public benefits.

At a time when nearly every state in the country has enacted some degree of harm reduction legislation-including Maine- like access to life-saving naloxone, an anti-overdose antidote, and Good Samaritan laws that encourage folks to call 911 when witnessing an overdose by offering varying level of immunity, it is incredibly discouraging to see Maine attempt to take a huge step backward in dealing with drug use.

“We cannot arrest our away out of the heroin epidemic. Criminalizing drug use only serves to exacerbate the problem and waste valuable resources that could be better used to provide treatment for those who need it,” says Jerónimo Saldaña, legislative and organizing coordinator in the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.

Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial lines, people of color are far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for drug law violations than are whites. “LD 1554 will potentially exacerbate the criminalization of communities of color and must be defeated,” says Saldaña.

Author:
Date Published: February 3, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

Today the Council of the District of Columbia voted to halt consideration of legislation that would permanently ban adult consumption of marijuana outside the home, and instead moved forward with the creation of a taskforce to explore the establishment of regulated places where adults can legally consume marijuana in the District.

"The will of District voters was upheld today by the Council, which voted unanimously to move forward on establishing regulated places where adults can consume marijuana," said Kaitlyn Boecker with the Drug Policy Alliance. “One year ago this Council voted unanimously to ban such spaces, stripping residents of their rights under Initiative 71, but today Councilmembers righted that wrong and voted for reform,” said Boecker.

Initiative 71, which was overwhelmingly approved by District voters in 2014, legalized the possession of up to two ounces marijuana for adults over the age of 21, and allowed individuals to grow up to six plants in their home. The implementation of Ballot Initiative 71 in the District has resulted in an unprecedented drop in arrests for possession of marijuana. D.C. laws prevented the ballot initiative from addressing the taxation and sale of marijuana, which requires action by the D.C. Council. However more than a year ago, Congress blocked D.C. lawmakers from using locally raised public funds to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol. Shortly after Initiative 71 took effect last year, Mayor Bowser and the Council passed emergency legislation banning all marijuana consumption outside a residence (even in private membership clubs). Advocates decried the legislation as poorly drafted, unnecessary and overly broad - going so far as to shut down any business where a single patron is caught.

The Council of the District of Columbia was scheduled to vote today on making this ban permanent. Opponents have advocated for months to abandon such prohibition policy and instead compromise on a measure establishing regulated places where adults can legally consume marijuana. However, Mayor Muriel Bowser and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson opposed a compromise and pushed the permanent ban through the Council.  Several Councilmembers were prepared to offer amendments to the measure during consideration today, including an amendment to allow a limited number of marijuana clubs in the District. Shortly before the Council was scheduled to consider the permanent ban legislation, Council Committee on the Judiciary Chair and Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie withdrew the bill from consideration.

Despite the withdrawal of the permanent legislation, a final vote on passage of a temporary extension of the ban remained on the Council’s schedule. This extension was opposed by a growing number of Councilmembers. Councilmember Vincent Orange led the efforts of such councilmembers Tuesday, offering an amendmentwhich created a seven-person taskforce to issue within 120 days a report with recommendations on establishing regulated places where adults can legally consume marijuana. The amended temporary legislation also extended the current ban by 225 days, in order to allow the taskforce and Council time to consider all recommendations and develop final legislation before making such spaces legal.Recent polling shows widespread support among District voters for creating venues for the consumption of marijuana.

“The Council has taken the first step towards sensible marijuana policy on social consumption of marijuana in the District, but much more needs to be done,” said Kaitlyn Boecker, policy associate at the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “We look forward to working with the taskforce to develop recommendations establishing regulated places where adults can legally consume marijuana.”

Author:
Date Published: February 2, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

As deaths from drug overdoses increase nationwide, Maryland Delegate Dan Morhaim, M.D. - also a practicing physician who has been treating patients in emergency and internal medicine for more than 30 years - will introduce four bills to transform drug policy in the state.  This groundbreaking legislative package aims to reduce the harms associated with substance abuse disorders, including rates of addiction, deadly overdose, the spread of infectious disease, crime, costs to the general public, and incarceration rates.  (See detailed descriptions of all 4 bills below.) 

More Americans now die annually from overdose than gunshot wounds or car crashes. Nearly 47,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2014.In Maryland, the Governor’s office has defined the problem as an “epidemic…destroying lives”. There has been a 60% rise in fatal drug and alcohol-related overdoses, and heroin deaths have increased by 186%, from 2010 to 2015 in the state.

WHAT:            Press Conference with Delegate Morhaim, Law Enforcement Officials, Health Experts and More

WHEN:            Friday, February 5, 2016, 12:00 p.m           

WHERE:         House Office Building, Room 180, 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, MD, 21401  (Please arrive by 11:30 a.m. to allow   plenty of time for parking, walking to the House of Delegates, and getting through security.  Click here for more information on parking.)

WHO:       

Delegate Dan Morhaim has been a member of the Maryland House of Delegates since 1994, where he serves as Deputy Majority Leader. He is a board-certified physician with over 30 years front-line clinical experience treating patients in emergency and internal medicine, and he is on the faculty at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and at the University of Maryland Medical School. He is the author of numerous articles, both medical and non-medical.

Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam was first elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1994 before being elected to the Maryland Senate in 2014.  She is a Registered Nurse with years of experience as a quality assurance coordinator, head nurse, and team leader at hospitals in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

Maj. Neill Franklin (Ret.) is the Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an international nonprofit organization of law enforcement professionals and civilian supporters who want to end the War on Drugs. Major Franklin is a retired 33-year veteran of both the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police forces. 

Beth McGinty is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management and Co-Deputy Director for the Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Professor McGinty’s research focuses on social policies that affect mental health and substance use. 

Christopher Welsh is a physician at the University of Maryland, specializing in addiction treatment and behavioral health. He is the Medical Director of the UMMC Substance Abuse Consultation Service, which is responsible for substance abuse assessment and intervention throughout the University of Maryland Medical Center.

“This crisis has been going for decades, but the marked rise in overdose deaths and the murder rate is finally forcing us to take definitive action. Maryland has the opportunity to serve as a model for the country in treating drug use for what it is—a public health issue,” says Delegate Morhaim.  “This legislation reflects the scientific, evidence-based research proving how to best help drug users, their families, and the community at large.”

"From moms to Presidential candidates, everyone is searching for solutions to the growing rates of drug addiction and overdose,” said Lindsay LaSalle, Staff Attorney for Drug Policy Alliance.  “Fortunately there are programs that are well-established and have been proven to work around the world.  Maryland now has the opportunity to be the first state to bring these common sense policies to the United States.” 

Below is an overview of the four drug policy bills that will be introduced:

Addiction Treatment at need and on Demand in ERs and Hospitals –In Maryland, drug related deaths are on the rise. Associated harms, including drug-related crime and violence, the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C, and the impact on health care insurance premiums and taxpayers are concerns for the state. Conservative estimates show that for every $1 spent on treatment approximately $12 is saved in criminal justice and health care costs.  For a wide variety of reasons, hospitals are an excellent location to initiate treatment. This bill requires acute care hospitals to have an addiction treatment counselor available or on-call 24/7 to patients in emergency rooms and in-hospital and to have defined arrangements for transfer to appropriate detoxification and rehabilitation care services. The bill also calls for the State’s hospital regulatory agency (HSCRC) to develop cost-effective strategies to support hospital capital and operating expenses.

Safe Consumption Programs – This bill permits the establishment of safe consumption programs which allow individuals to consume controlled substances in a safe space, provide sterile equipment, and connect patients to treatment, medical care, and other social services. Similar facilities now operate in Europe, Australia, and Canada with excellent results, including reducing the spread of infectious diseases, and because medical staff is immediately available, overdose deaths have been eliminated.  This bill allows local health departments to singularly establish such programs.  Community-based organizations may also establish such programs after obtaining approval from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene when specific criteria are met. 

Poly-Morphone-Assisted Treatment - This bill tasks the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene with creating an advisory committee to review research proposals and support the establishment of a 4-year poly-morphone-assisted treatment pilot project in Maryland.  Poly-morphone-assisted treatment refers to the administering or dispensing of pharmaceutical–grade heroin, hydromorphone, or other opioids to a small and previously consistently unresponsive group of chronic heroin users under medical supervision in a specialized clinic.  This group of users is directly responsible for a significant portion of street crime and uncompensated health care costs that are eventually born by taxpayers. Bringing them into treatment immediately reduces their anti-social behavior and provides an opportunity for further care. Programs in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark, as well as clinical trials in Canada and elsewhere, have achieved unanimously positive results.

(For both the Safe Consumption and Poly-Morphone Programs, the University of Maryland Department of Psychiatry has stated its support and said “If the legislation is passed, the Department would seriously consider establishing pilot programs to evaluate these interventions.”)

Decriminalization of Small Amounts of Drugs for Personal Use- Rather than reducing drug use, criminalizing substance abusers amplifies the risk of fatal overdoses and diseases, increases stigma, and drives people away from needed treatment and harm reduction services.  This bill would keep some drug users - those possessing minimal amounts - out of the criminal justice system, thereby saving critical resources and avoiding the costs of saddling more Maryland citizens with criminal records and their adverse consequences. In 2001 Portugal became the first nation to eliminate criminal penalties for low-level possession and use of all illicit drugs. The Cato Institute studied the results of Portugal’s policy and stated “none of nightmare scenarios…from rampant increases in drug usage among the young to the transformation of Lisbon into a haven for drug tourists has occurred.” Furthermore, “decriminalization has had no adverse effect on drug usage rates”, and the level of drug trafficking has also declined. And the incidence of other drug-related problems, including sexually transmitted diseases and deaths from drug overdoses, has “decreased dramatically”.

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Author:
Date Published: February 2, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance

At a time when the nation reflects and focuses on the history, contributions and lives of Black Americans, our recent International Drug Policy Reform Conference’s town hall presents a profoundly relevant conversation on the extensive intersection of drug policy and Black communities.

Check out this powerful discussion about race, the drug war, and the intersection of the #BlackLivesMatter and drug policy reform movements:

We know that marijuana arrests are the engine driving the U.S. war on drugs. Black and Latino people are arrested at vastly disproportionate rates, even though white people use and sell marijuana at similar rates. We also know that the drug war is a primary source of funding for the tanks in towns like Ferguson, the over-policing in New York City and the unprecedented discretion given to police officers to criminalize Black people.

As an example, both Ramarley Graham and Trayvon Martin, who were both killed in February of 2012, had their alleged marijuana involvement as a tactic to smear their innocence. The murder of Trayvon Martin was the impetus for the Black Lives Matter movement and then propelled by other shooting deaths of men, women and children.

Yet many drug policy organizations have remained largely silent about these connections. With the meteoric rise of the movement for Black lives and the growing tide for broader drug policy reform, essential questions must be addressed. This dialogue speaks to how we can start to course correct and join forces to create a world where all of our communities can thrive safely.

Moderated by writer, activist and DPA’s senior director asha bandele, Connecting the Dots features Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Lumumba Bandele, senior organizer at the NAACP LDf, Kassandra Frederique, New York Policy Director, Deborah Peterson-Small, executive director of Break the Chains, and T-Dubb-O, hip hop artist and political director of Hands Up United.

Melissa Franqui is the communications coordinator at the Drug Policy Alliance.

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Author: Melissa Franqui
Date Published: February 1, 2016
Published by Drug Policy Alliance