Fact Sheet

The Drug War, Mass Incarceration and Race

February 19, 2014

With less than 5 percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of its incarcerated population, the United States imprisons more people than any other nation in the world – largely due to the war on drugs. Misguided drug laws and draconian sentencing requirements have produced profoundly unequal outcomes for communities of color. Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial and ethnic lines, blacks and Latinos are far more likely to be criminalized for drug law violations than whites.

Approaches to Decriminalizing Drug Use and Possession

February 19, 2014

One solution to reducing the number of people swept into the criminal justice system for drug law violations is to enact various forms of decriminalization of drug use and possession. Decriminalization is the removal of criminal penalties for drug law violations (usually possession for personal use). Roughly two dozen countries, and dozens of U.S. cities and states, have taken steps toward decriminalization. By decriminalizing possession and investing in treatment and harm reduction services, we can reduce the harms of drug misuse while improving public safety and health.

Don't Take Away our Medicine!

October 25, 2012

A campaign to protect safe access to medical marijuana for PTSD patients

Medical Marijuana

April 14, 2014

One of the most egregious outcomes of marijuana prohibition is that many seriously ill people cannot legally access the medicine that works best for them. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing the use of marijuana for qualifying patients under state law. While state medical marijuana programs differ from one another in significant ways, most are tightly controlled programs regulated by the state departments of public health.

Why is Marijuana Decriminalization Not Enough?

April 15, 2014

Decriminalization of marijuana possession is a necessary first step toward a more comprehensive reform of the drug prohibition regime. However decriminalization alone does not address many of the greatest harms of prohibition – such as high levels of crime, corruption and violence, massive illicit markets and the harmful health consequences of drugs produced in the absence of regulatory oversight.

Just a Slap on the Wrist? The Life-Changing Consequences of a Marijuana Arrest

April 15, 2014

Marijuana arrests are the engine driving the U.S. war on drugs. In 2012, there were 749,825 marijuana arrests in the U.S. – nearly half of all drug arrests. Almost 90 percent of these arrests were for simple possession, not sale or manufacture. Blacks and Latinos are arrested at vastly disproportionate rates, even though white people use and sell marijuana at similar rates. A marijuana arrest is no small matter – the arrest creates a permanent criminal record that can easily be found by employers, landlords, schools, credit agencies and banks.

Faces of Medical Marijuana

January 31, 2013

For many people, medical marijuana is the only medicine that relieves their pain and suffering, or treats symptoms of their medical condition, without debilitating side effects. Marijuana has been shown to alleviate symptoms of a broad variety of serious medical conditions including cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma, and is often an effective alternative to synthetic painkillers. These are the stories of people who have experienced the medical safety and efficacy of marijuana in their own lives.

Sterile Syringe Access

February 19, 2014

Increasing sterile syringe access through syringe exchange programs and non-prescription pharmacy sales is essential to reducing syringe sharing among injection drug users and decreasing rates of HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C transmission. Despite the benefits of these life-saving programs, legal and bureaucratic barriers still prevent people who inject drugs from accessing clean syringes.

Supervised Injection Facilities

February 19, 2014

Supervised injection facilities (SIFs) are controlled health care settings where people can more safely inject drugs under clinical supervision and receive health care, counseling and referrals to health and social services, including drug treatment. There is overwhelming evidence that SIFs are effective in reducing new HIV infections, overdose deaths and public nuisance – and that they do not increase drug use or criminal activity. There are currently 92 such facilities operating in 62 cities around the world – but none in the U.S.

The Cost of a Slow Learning Curve

February 19, 2014

The U.S. refuses to adopt an evidence-based HIV/AIDS prevention strategy, costing us hundreds of thousands of lives and hundreds of millions of dollars. However, in countries where addiction is treated as a health issue, the fight against HIV/AIDS is being won. Newly diagnosed HIV infections in many countries have been nearly eliminated among people who use drugs, just as mother-to-child transmission of HIV has been eliminated in countries that make medicines for pregnant women accessible.

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