Buttigieg Pledges To Decriminalize Possession Of All Drugs In Initial Term As President

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South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg released a complete strategy on Friday that calls for “decriminalizing all drug possession” in his initial presidential term as a suggests to combat the opioid epidemic and treat addiction as a public overall health, rather than criminal justice, situation.

Decriminalization is just a single action the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate stated he’d pursue in order to reform the country’s mental overall health care program and bolster substance abuse remedy. His strategy also involves proposals to lower sentences for drug offenses other than possession, improve access to the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone and make it a lot easier to implement syringe exchange applications.

Buttigieg’s “Healing and Belonging in America” strategy emphasizes the require to divert people today suffering from addiction away from prisons and into remedy. He stated he’d achieve that by expanding diversionary applications and proof-primarily based coaching “for drug courts, mental overall health courts, and other options to incarceration for justice-involved persons.”

The target of decriminalization and diversion is to lower “the quantity of people today incarcerated due to mental illness or substance use by 75 % in the initial term.”

Beneath his strategy, sentencing reform for drug offenses other than possession would be applied retroactively and coupled with expungements for previous convictions. Buttigieg pointed to investigation demonstrating that “incarceration for drug offenses has no impact on drug misuse, drug arrests, or overdose deaths” and rather “actually increases the price of overdose deaths.”

“We can not incarcerate ourselves out of this public overall health issue.”

“To make sure that people today with a mental illness or substance use disorder can heal, we will decriminalize these circumstances,” the proposal states. “When somebody is undergoing a crisis or is caught employing a drug, they should really be treated by a overall health skilled rather than punished in a jail cell.”

“All presidential candidates should really join Pete Buttigieg in recognizing that the criminalization of people today for their drug use is incorrect and merely negative policy,” Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, executive director of the Drug Policy Action, stated in a press release. “Possession of drugs for private use is the single most arrested offense in the United States, eclipsing arrest prices for any other offense. With overdose numbers skyrocketing and whole communities, disproportionately black or brown, suffering from criminalization, it is time for policymakers to shift gears. Taking an proof-primarily based, overall health-centered strategy to address this crisis is not only accurate leadership – it is widespread sense.”

The mayor also created harm reduction policies a essential element of his method. He stated take-dwelling naloxone applications would be expanded to all 50 states by 2024 and that harm reduction solutions would be expanded “to lower overdose deaths and the spread of infectious ailments associated to needle sharing.”

The strategy would make naloxone “broadly offered in order to reverse overdoses” and take away “legislative and regulatory restrictions on the use of federal funds for syringe service applications.”

Buttigieg stated the federal government should really deliver funding for state and nearby overall health departments to acquire the medication, make positive that it is “available in public spaces and workplaces” related to initial help youngsters and encourage “co-prescribing of naloxone with opioids, either by person physicians or direct dispensing by pharmacists.”

Current federal law tends to make it tough to establish syringe exchange applications, in element since federal funds cannot be utilized to get needles. The restrictions “hamper state and nearby responses, each since they limit sources and since they convey a unfavorable message about the worth of these applications, regardless of overwhelming scientific proof that they can avert transmission of HIV and hepatitis.”

In addition to lifting these barriers, the candidate stated the Centers for Illness Manage and Prevention “would also operate with states to take away any criminal liability for these participating in” syringe exchange applications.

“Harm reduction applications are a crucial element of any successful response to the opioid and injection drug use crisis. They reduce the unfavorable effect of drug use with out encouraging it, whilst minimizing other side effects of drug use. In distinct, this suggests access to syringe service applications for people today who inject drugs, that hyperlink them to remedy, and delivers access to sterile syringes. These applications aid avert transmission of HIV, viral hepatitis, and other infectious ailments related with needle sharing, and lower overdoses by deploying medication such as naloxone that aid reverse the effects of opioids.”

A single harm reduction policy that didn’t make the reduce in Buttigieg’s strategy is secure injection web pages, exactly where people today could use illicit drugs beneath the supervision of health-related specialists who could reverse overdoses and advocate remedy alternatives. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who are also operating for the Democratic nomination, each proposed legalizing such facilities as element of criminal justice reform plans they released this month.

“Decades of failed mental overall health and addiction policy, coupled with mass incarceration that criminalized mental illness and drug use, have left us with a mental overall health and addiction care program so broken that now there are far more people today with critical mental illness in prisons than in remedy facilities,” Buttigieg stated.

The candidate also created ending incarceration for drug possession—as properly as legalizing marijuana—central principles of his previously released criminal justice reform strategy, which he released final month.

But whilst the prior strategy did not explicitly describe the move as “decriminalizing” drugs, even even though advocates normally use that word to refer to policies that take away the threat of getting imprisoned for possession, the new document does use that terminology—signaling a shift in clarity as Buttigieg continues to create his campaign messaging.

In other situations, he borrowed language from his criminal justice reform strategy, especially as it issues how criminalizing drug use can improve prices of overdose, for his mental overall health proposal.

“Despite equal prices of use, Black Americans are practically 4 instances as probably to be arrested for employing marijuana,” the criminal justice strategy states. “Research shows that incarceration for drug offenses has no impact on drug misuse, drug arrests, or overdose deaths. In truth, some research show that incarceration really increases the price of overdose deaths.”

Buttigieg pointed out that, as with drug offenses, black people today are also far more probably to die from overdoses. And that is due to “the existing broken program that criminalizes mental illness and addiction” that was “built for the duration of the crack epidemic of the 1980s.”

Elizabeth Warren’s Criminal Justice Program Requires Legalizing Marijuana And Protected Injection Web-sites

This story was updated to contain comment from the Drug Policy Action.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Gage Skidmore.

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