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Drug Law Reform
A Position Paper By Terence T. Gorski
January 23, 2001

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Posted On: <Date Posted>          Updated On: January 27, 2002
© Terence T. Gorski, 2001

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.

1.    In 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. 

2.    In 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.

3.    It 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.

3.    It is important to recognize the valuable and cost-effective contribution that drug treatment can provide as an alternative to incarceration.

4.    It is important to encourage the emergence of new positions drawn from proven best practices of law enforcement, treatment, and reformers.

5.    It 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.

6.    It is important to incorporate the following science-based principles of substance abuse:  

(1)   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 self-regulate behavior;  

(3)   When 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 states;  

(4)   Punishment is ineffective of and by itself to bring about recovery from addiction;  

(5)   The use of punishment can be coordinated with the use of treatment to facilitate early intervention, treatment completion, and interventions should relapse occur;  

(6)   Other 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.

(10) 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.

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