Newsbrief: Washington State Drug Reform Coalition Launches Campaign 3/4/05

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A coalition of Washington state professional and civic groups led by the King County Bar Association (KCBA) officially kicked off its campaign for alternatives to drug prohibition with a Seattle news conference Thursday. A day earlier, the Washington state Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a bill promoted by the coalition that would create a state Commission on Psychoactive Substance Control. The KCBA and the coalition it leads are calling for a fundamental shift in drug policy from a prohibitionist to a regulatory regime, and hope such a commission would advance that goal.

While DRCNet interviewed KCBA Drug Policy Project head Roger Goodman, the point man for the project, about the KCBA resolution adopted in January calling for the creation of such a commission as a step toward ending prohibition and the coalition's planned campaign a month ago, this week's events take the campaign squarely into the public sphere.

At Thursday's press conference, the broad coalition behind the campaign qualified the war on drugs as a "tragic failure" and called for the first steps toward an exit strategy for that failed policy. The coalition called on the legislature to approve the bill calling for a commission of experts to make detailed proposals for shifting toward a regulatory system.

While DRCNet readers read about it in January, KCBA also used the occasion to officially release a major new report, "Effective Drug Control: Toward a New Legal Framework," which calls 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."

"This is a controversial topic, so we need to be very clear about our objectives," said John Cary, the president of the KCBA. "We want to reduce crime and public disorder, improve public health, protect children from drugs and save public money. By any measure, the current policy has been an abject failure. It's outrageous that criminal gangs control drugs today and that children have such easy access to drugs."

"Physicians know that drug addiction is a curable illness," said Jennifer Mayfield from the Washington Academy of Family Physicians. "The costs of effective treatment are so much lower than the costs of incarceration, and where the harsh criminal justice approach has not worked, it's now time to focus instead on public health measures to address the drug abuse problem," Mayfield said.

"It's critically important that the public get engaged in the conversation about how to change our drug policies. That's why the League of Women Voters has been actively supporting this project from the very beginning," said Nancy Eitreim, president of the Seattle League.

Jeffrey Mero, President of the Washington State Public Health Association, said, "Persuasive and voluminous research indicates that a public health approach to drug abuse -- stressing research, education, prevention and treatment -- is far more effective than the use of criminal sanctions. However, the policy of drug prohibition, which has spawned a range of intractable problems, from a flourishing "black market" to the spread of blood-borne diseases to official corruption, has been a major impediment to employing such a public health approach. We're wasting taxpayer money by using a counterproductive criminal approach."

Rev. Sandy Brown of the Church Council of Greater Seattle said, "Treating drug use as a criminal matter rather than a social and medical issue has not been successful in reducing drug use, nor the harms arising from drug use. For over three decades we have been seeking new tools to fight the persistent crime problem that has inevitably arisen from the policy of drug prohibition, meanwhile distracting both the state and society at large from effectively addressing the problem of drug addiction itself. In the name of social justice we must find a more effective and pragmatic way to deal with this problem."

And Washington state appears to be leading the way.

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Issue #377 -- 3/4/05

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The Ignorance and the Damage Done | International Harm Reduction Battle Heating Up | National Drug Control Strategy Taking Lumps from All Sides | Under New South Dakota Anti-Meth Law, Drug Use Equals Child Abuse | DRCNet Needs You to Write the Senate | DRCNet/Perry Fund Event to Feature Rep. John Conyers and Kemba Smith, March 9 in Washington, DC | Coasters to Stop the Drug War | Events and Conferences Coming Up for Drug Reformers -- Come Out and Be a Part of It | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Newsbrief: Four Canadian Mounties Killed Raiding Marijuana Grow | Newsbrief: Legalize It, Says Business Week Columnist | Newsbrief: Washington State Drug Reform Coalition Launches Campaign | Newsbrief: Texas Racial Profiling Study Finds No Progress, Calls for Ban on Consent Searches | Newsbrief: Arkansas Bill That Would Have Cut Methamphetamine Sentences Defeated | Newsbrief: Utah Treatment Not Jail Bill Dying For Lack of Funding | Newsbrief: Colombia Guerrillas Demand Return of Commander Extradited to US | Newsbrief: British Opposition Promises Tough New Drug War if Elected | Newsbrief: As British Parties Embrace Student Drug Testing, Research Report Flashes Caution Light | Newsbrief: "The Marijuana-Logues" Tour Cancelled After Parole Officer Forces Tommy Chong to Quit | A Drug War Carol Now Available in Spanish and French | This Week in History | The Reformer's Calendar

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