Drug Law Reform
A Position Paper By Terence T. Gorski
January 23, 2001
I do not support or endorse the legalization of drugs. Mind
altering drugs are potentially dangerous and need to be regulated by
law. In recent years, however, new scientific information about
the the nature of addiction, the effectiveness of treatment, and the
role of the criminal justice system in managing the epidemic of
substance abuse and addiction has become available.
In light of this new information, it is appropriate to critically
review and appropriately modify certain aspects of the drug laws and
drug control policies that govern our approach to managing substance
abuse problems nationally and internationally. It is important to
apply the following principles to the process of reviewing and modifying
drug laws and drug control procedures.
a free democracy, open debate is essential when reviewing and revising
any area of legislation and policy, including drug control. Any
efforts to review and revise drug laws should be done only after full
and open debates of all sides of the issues. These debate should
encourage rational critiques and challenges to current drug laws and
drug control policies. It should also encourage the presentation
of alternative legislation and drug control policy approaches
that would more effectively manage the nation's drug problems while
better serving the the common good.
a free democracy, we must assure that all drug laws and drug control
policies respect the civil liberties of both the general public and
addicted people and their families.
is important to discourage the polarization of the issue into the two
extreme political camps of enforcement (the drug warriors) and reform
(the drug legalizers). We must avoid labeling people and treating
them as if they were the label.
is important to recognize the valuable and cost-effective contribution
that drug treatment can provide as an alternative to
is important to encourage the emergence of new positions drawn from
proven best practices of law enforcement, treatment, and reformers.
is important to focus upon the continuing development and implementation
of high levels of cooperation between law enforcement, public health, mental
health, and addiction treatment professionals.
is important to incorporate the following science-based principles of
substance use disorders are biopsychosocial in nature;
(2) The use of
mind altering drugs can alter brain chemistry in a way that
impairs the ability to think, manage feelings and emotions, and
they become addicted, people can loose their ability to to limit or control their
substance use do to powerful cravings induced by abnormal brain chemistry
Punishment is ineffective of and by itself to bring about recovery from
(5) The use
of punishment can be coordinated with the use of treatment to facilitate
early intervention, treatment completion, and interventions should
criminal behaviors often coexist with addiction. Some of these
criminal behaviors are a result of addiction and others are not.
The issue of coexisting criminality and enforcement of other laws must
be addressed. Addiction itself should not be viewed as a
crime. Addiction should never be used as an excuse for crime.
(7) It is
important to take forceful action against illegal organizations that
manufacture, transport, and distribute illegal drugs. Our most
important goal should be to protect children and adolescence from the
dangers of illicit drugs.
(8) The primary
goal of effective drug control policy is to protect addicted people, their
families, their employers, and their communities from the adverse
consequences of substance abuse.
(9) We must be take to assure that drug laws and drug control policies don't inadvertently
do more harm to addicted people and their families than the substance
abuse problems that we are attempting to manage.
Treatment programs are best managed by trained addiction treatment
professionals. It is important to maintain appropriate
credentialing of drug treatment professionals and licensing of drug
treatment facilities. The development and ongoing review of the
standards should be done by trained addiction treatment professionals.