Newsbrief: Drug Policy Alliance Issues Report on Changes in State Drug Laws 9/19/03

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In a report released Tuesday, the Drug Policy Alliance has found that states across the country have begun to roll-back "tough on crime" drug laws. The report cited an increased willingness by state officials and legislators to treat drug use as an illness, not a crime, and the fiscal crisis of the states as key factors in what is a slow moving political sea change. DPA surveyed laws enacted between 1996 and 2001 and found that various states have embraced prevention, treatment, and other alternatives to a nearly 20-year-old emphasis on harsh punishment and lengthy mandatory minimum prison sentences.

The report emphasized that harm reduction -- "the awareness that not just drug abuse, but also misguided drug policies, can cause grave harms to individuals and society" -- was driving many of the changes.

The report will be used to influence legislators and ultimately the federal government, said DPA executive director Ethan Nadelmann. "Our key hope for this report is that legislators around the country will increasingly appreciate that it's possible to introduce and support and enact sensible drug policy reforms without being accused of being soft on drugs or being soft on crime," he said.

Among the findings:

  • Voters approved drug reform initiatives between 1996 and 2001, most often on medical marijuana, in 17 states, while reformers lost in only two states, Massachusetts and Washington.
  • Sentencing reforms were enacted in 18 states and the District of Columbia.
  • 29 states restored all or some welfare eligibility for drug offenders.
  • Nine states and the District of Columbia voted for medical marijuana.
Read the report online at http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/09_16_03sos.cfm.

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Issue #303, 9/19/03 Editorial: Don't Stop There | A Clean, Well-Lit Place to Shoot Dope: Western Hemisphere's First Government-Approved Safe Injection Site Opens in Vancouver | And Then There Were Four: Canadian Marijuana Possession Laws Crumble | Britain's Pending Cannabis Decrim Will Allow for Some Arrests | More Than Just Memories: Cheryl Miller Memorial Project in DC Next Week | Newsbrief: Seattle Voters Tell Police to Make Marijuana Possession Lowest Priority | Newsbrief: Marijuana Legal in Alaska, But Attorney General Orders Cops to Confiscate It, Work with Feds to Build Cases | Newsbrief: Ecstasy Scandal Grows as Second Study Retracted | Newsbrief: Drug Policy Alliance Issues Report on Changes in State Drug Laws | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Reefer Madness in the Heart of Africa | Newsbrief: Campaign Comments -- John Edwards on Industrial Hemp | Newsbrief: Murderous Thai Drug War in Final Drive to be "Drug Free" | Newsbrief: UN Agency Calls for Change in Colombia Drug War Strategy | Current Action Alerts: Medical Marijuana, Plan Colombia, HEA, Ashcroft's Attack on Judicial Discretion | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | Errata: Dutch MedMj, Ecstasy Study Stories Last Two Weeks | The Reformer's Calendar
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