(Alexandria, VA) – Today, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a national organization dedicated to promoting evidenced-based marijuana laws and policies, released the following statement in response to a new report from the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) calling for the decriminalization of all drugs:
“We cannot incarcerate our way out of our nation’s drug problem,” said Kevin Sabet, President of SAM. “But the legalization and decriminalization of heroin and meth – which is the goal of groups like DPA – are not serious alternatives to current drug policy. The overall goal of public policy in America should be to support smarter policies that discourage drug use and its consequences — not encourage them. Do we really think communities ravaged by heroin need policies that encourage its use? People with drug use disorders need treatment and we need better interventions in our healthcare system to identify drug problems before they grow. We also need a robust public information campaign to teach Americans about the dangers of drugs – similar to our effort against tobacco.”
“It’s a simple fact that no community in America would be healthier or safer with more people using meth, heroin, cocaine, or marijuana and there are smarter drug policy alternatives that communities should consider instead” continued Sabet. “Already, illegal drug use and its consequences costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year in public health and safety costs. We need to reduce those costs, not grow them. The truth is that this report is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to further open a door to a new for-profit legal drug industry in the United States – the next ‘big tobacco’ of our time. If the Drug Policy Alliance is serious about supporting smarter alternatives to a so-called ‘war on drugs’ approach to drug policy, they would support other proven, evidenced-based alternatives like drug courts, pre-trial diversion programs, and probation reform which reduce drug use while alleviating pressure on our criminal justice system.”
According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, drug use and its consequences cost taxpayers more than $193 billion dollars a year in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and health care. Additionally, data on drug use trends in America reveal that the use of legal drugs far outpaces the use of illegal drugs, indicating that laws discouraging drug use work to keep rates of abuse low as compared to legal drugs.
SAM supports a wide array of evidence-based reforms that discourage drug use while avoiding saddling non-violent drug offenders with lifelong criminal records. These include support for drug courts, which divert non-violent drug offenders into treatment instead of prison, pre-trial diversion programs which reduce criminal justice costs, record expungement programs and evidence-based drug prevention initiatives designed to stop drug use before it starts, particularly among young people.
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