Transforming the System


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Adopting sensible drug policy

Ineffective and harmful drug policies have overemphasized criminalization, although criminalization is far less effective and more costly than public health responses that focus on harm reduction. Instead, drug related policies should treat drug addiction as a public health matter. Drug policy warrants proven public health responses and should be focused on “reducing the harms of drug misuse.”

The City of Ithaca has adopted an evidence-supported plan to curtail drug addiction by adopting a public health approach in lieu of criminalization. This plan includes a focus on diverting individuals away from the criminal justice system and into social service programs, and supervised injection sites that are proven to be effective in harm reduction and in preventing the spread of disease. The City of Ithaca has released a report that can serve as a model for local implementation of drug policy.

The Administration should “work with Congress to restore [and expand] federal funding to syringe exchange programs, “which has been proven to significantly reduce the transmission of HIV when used as part of a comprehensive approach to HIV prevention.

The Department of Justice should downgrade to low priority the prosecution of drug-related offenses and should opt out of prosecutions related to marijuana.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should educate local lawmakers about the importance of “syringe exchange as a useful tool for reducing HIV infection and drug use.”

Local and state legislators should pass measures, which:

  • Adopt a harm reduction model for drug policy that focuses on treating the underlying issues of addiction over criminalization;
  • Adopt syringe exchange programs;
  • Treat drug-related consumption as a public health matter and encourage law enforcement to refer eligible arrestees to social services; and
  • Adequately fund non-criminal drug-related diversion programs and social services.

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