Seven in ten Americans say they believe federal drug policies are not working and need to be reformed.
That’s according to a new poll by Data for Progress and The Appeal, which analyzed public opinion around drug prohibition and decriminalization of all substances for personal use.
The poll was released exactly 50 years after President Richard Nixon declared the War on Drugs - June 17, 1971.
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Nixon's speech, Democratic representatives introduced the Drug Policy Reform Act, a new bill meant to end criminal penalties for drug possession across the country.
The Drug Policy Reform Act: Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Cori Bush introduced the act on Thursday.
The measure not only aims to eliminate criminal penalties for drug use and possession but is geared towards shifting the perception around drug abuse, moving it from a law enforcement problem to a public health issue.
To accomplish that, the bill proposes changing the regulatory authority on these issues from the Attorney General to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
It would also expunge records and provide avenues for resentencing, as well as provide reinvestment in alternative health-centered approaches for people suffering from substance abuse disorders.
Many of the measures proposed by the Drug Policy Reform Act are in line with Oregon’s Measure 110, approved by voters in Nov. 2020, that effectively eliminated penalties for use and possession of all substances including cocaine, heroin, oxycodone, methamphetamine and LSD.
The Oregon ballot also established the creation of a series of Addiction and Recovery Centers throughout the state.
The new bill introduced into the House of Representatives aims to stop treating people suffering from drug abuse disorders as criminals but rather introduce them into the healthcare system. Further clauses in the bill’s text refer to eliminating the many life-long consequences associated with drug arrests and convictions, which include the denial of employment, public benefits, immigration status, drivers’ licenses and voting rights.
“Drug possession remains the most arrested offense in the United States despite the well-known fact that drug criminalization does nothing to help communities, it ruins them. It tears families apart and causes trauma that can be felt for generations. The drug war has caused mass devastation to Black, Latinx, Indigenous and low-income communities,” said Queen Adesuyi, Policy Manager for the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.
The Drug Policy Alliance collaborated with Reps. Coleman and Bush in drafting the bill.
Survey Results: In the newly-released poll, which was conducted with 1250 likely voters, 71 percent of those interviewed said that “Federal drug policies are not working and we need to reform them.”
59 percent said they either fully or somewhat support the idea of decriminalizing small possession of all drugs, while 55 percent support distribution of drugs in small quantities.
67 percent of those interviewed believed that drug war policies have never and still don't make communities safer and fail to address either drug addiction or crime.
A second survey, released on June 9 by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Drug Policy Alliance revealed similar results. In it, 800 registered voters were surveyed and found that 83 percent believed the War on Drugs has failed, while 65 percent supported ending policies associated with it.
66 percent surveyed supported “eliminating criminal penalties for drug possession and reinvesting drug enforcement resources into treatment and addiction services.”
Photo by Kindel Media from Pexels
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