In a resolution adopted Wednesday, the King County Bar Association (Seattle) has declared war on prohibition. The KCBA called for "a new framework of state-level regulatory control over psychoactive substances, intended to render the illegal markets for such substances unprofitable, to restrict access to psychoactive substances by young persons and to provide prompt health care and essential services to persons suffering from chemical dependency and addiction, will better serve the objectives of reducing crime, improving public order, enhancing public health, protecting children and wisely using scarce public resources, than current drug policies."
The landmark resolution calls on the Washington state legislature to create a consultative committee of experts in pharmacology, education, medicine, public health, law and law enforcement, as well as public officials and civic leaders, including delegates from the leadership of each caucus in the House and Senate, to provide specific recommendations for legislation to establish legal, regulated markets for currently illicit drugs. The KCBA has sent the resolution to the state legislature.
The KCBA is a key part of a carefully crafted coalition that should serve as a model for other communities. The broad ranging coalition is a virtual who's who of state professional and civic organizations, including the King County Medical Society, the Church Council of Greater Seattle, the Loren Miller Bar Association, the Municipal League of King County, the Seattle League of Women Voters, the Washington Academy of Family Physicians, the Washington Association of Addiction Programs, the Washington Osteopathic Medical Association, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Washington Society of Addiction Medicine, the Washington State Bar Association, the Washington State Medical Association, the Washington State Pharmacy Association, the Washington State Psychiatric Association, the Washington State Psychological Association and the Washington State Public Health Association.
KCBA passed the resolution based on the finding that "current drug control policies are fundamentally flawed and that the unrelenting demand for prohibited psychoactive substances has fostered and strengthened highly profitable illegal markets for the production and distribution of such substances; and that the operation of such illegal markets is a proximate cause of devastating societal impacts, including:
1. Rates of prohibited substance use and of crime related to prohibited substances that have failed to decline or have actually increased during the current period of intensified law enforcement and incarceration, including children experimenting with more dangerous substances at younger ages;
2. Soaring public costs on the federal, state and local levels arising from the continued use of harsh criminal sanctions related to prohibited psychoactive substances, contributing to the overcrowding of jails and prisons and draining public coffers of the resources needed for investment in local communities and for the provision of essential services;
3. Impaired administration of justice from the continuous flow of drug cases clogging the courts and causing undue and sometimes prejudicial delays in the investigation and prosecution of non-drug-related criminal matters and in the processing of civil matters;
4. Undermining of public health, including the transmission of blood-borne diseases, the uncontrolled distribution of impure and hazardous substances, and the development of high-potency, synthetic substances that are more easily concealed but are more harmful to health, as well as the inhibition of users of prohibited substances from seeking medical attention for chemical dependency and addiction;
5. Disproportionate arrest and incarceration of ethnic minorities and the poor, causing the disruption of families and the interference with or denial of educational, employment and housing opportunities, and exacerbating the social conditions that are associated with chemical dependency and addiction;
6. Compromises in the protection of citizens' constitutional rights as a result of stepped-up law enforcement and penalties related to prohibited substances, impinging upon individual privacy rights and depriving persons convicted of drug offenses of the right to vote and other civil rights; and
7. Loss of respect for the law arising from public sentiments that the dangers of certain prohibited substances are overstated, that drug-related penalties are unjust and that coercing abstinence through the use of criminal sanctions is a futile public objective.
The resolution will be the springboard for "a public conversation on how the state can effectively regulate and control psychoactive substances that are currently produced and distributed exclusively in illegal markets," said the KCBA.
Look for much more on the resolution and implications next week in the Chronicle.