I have been working at the Drug Policy Alliance for the last 16 years and I have never seen a week like this. It is hard to keep up with all of the big stories about the disastrous war on drugs and the growing effort to end it. Here is a compilation from the incredible week.
According to a new Gallup poll released today, a majority of Americans continue to say marijuana use should be legal in the United States, with 58 percent in support. In 2012, Colorado and Washington took the historic step of legalizing marijuana. Alaska, Oregon and Washington D.C. voted to legalize marijuana in 2014 and other states are likely to follow in the coming years.
From the front page of today’s New York Times: “More than 130 police chiefs, prosecutors and sheriffs — including some of the most prominent law enforcement officials in the country — are adding their clout to the movement to reduce the nation’s incarceration rate.”
This week, Canada voted in Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party, which will have outstanding implications for drug policy reform there. The Liberal Party has promised to legalize and regulate marijuana in Canada and Trudeau has expressed support for harm reduction and the expansion of supervised injection sites across the country.
On Monday, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled that federal drug law enforcers are forbidden to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries that comply with state law. The decision by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer is the first-known ruling by a federal judge to protect marijuana dispensaries under a budget amendment approved by Congress in December 2014.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) appeared set to call on governments to end the criminalization of drug use and possession, according to DPA Honorary Board Member Richard Branson -- but in a dramatic turn of events withdrew its briefing paper under pressure, according to the BBC.
It's encouraging that such a powerful statement about the need to decriminalize drug use and possession made it this far in the UN process. Hopefully the UNODC will eventually move forward and release this document and stand by their call to decriminalizing drug use.
President Obama renewed his push for criminal justice reform on Saturday, when he announced a nationwide tour in the coming weeks fix our criminal justice system.
"Much of our criminal justice system remains unfair," Mr. Obama said. "Over the last few decades, we've also locked up more non-violent offenders than ever before, for longer than ever before. That's the real reason our prison population is so high."
This incredible week comes on the heels of other major news earlier this month. A few weeks ago, it was announced that 6,000 federal prisoners will be released from federal prison starting in November. The day before, nearly 100 celebrities called for reform to the criminal justice system.
We are at a paradoxical moment in our country. We are clearly moving in the right direction, toward a more rational drug policy based on science, compassion, health and human rights.
But we need to step up our efforts, grow our numbers, and continue to win hearts and minds because the casualties from the war continue to mount every day.