Pubdate: Wed, 25 Jul 2007
Source: San Francisco Bay View, The (CA)
Page: Front Page
Copyright: 2007 The San Francisco Bay View
Author: Bob Curley
Note: This article was originally published by, 1 
Appleton St., Fourth Floor, Boston, MA 02116-5223.
Cited: Drug Policy Alliance
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Mandatory Minimum Sentencing)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


The U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted the resolution during its June 
21-26 annual meeting in Los Angeles, calling for a "new bottom line" 
in drug policy that "concentrates more fully on reducing the negative 
consequences associated with drug abuse, while ensuring that our 
policies do not exacerbate these problems or create new social 
problems of their own; establishes quantifiable, short- and long-term 
objectives for drug policy; saves taxpayers money and holds state and 
federal agencies responsible."

Sponsored by Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, the resolution 
states that the drug war costs $40 billion annually but has not cut 
drug use or demand. It slams the Office of National Drug Control 
Policy's (ONDCP) drug-prevention programs specifically, the agency's 
national anti-drug media campaign as "costly and ineffective," but 
called drug treatment cost-effective and a major contributor to 
public safety because it prevents criminal behavior.

"This Conference recognizes that addiction is a chronic medical 
illness that is treatable, and drug treatment success rates exceed 
those of many cancer therapies," the document states.

The resolution condemns mandatory minimum sentences and incarceration 
of drug offenders, particularly minorities, and called for more 
control of anti-drug spending and priorities at the local level, 
where the impact is most acutely felt.

"U.S. policy should not be measured solely on drug-use levels or 
number of people imprisoned, but rather on the amount of drug-related 
harm reduced," according to the resolution. The document calls for 
more accountability among federal, state and local drug agencies, 
with funding tied to performance measures, more treatment funding, 
alternatives to incarceration and lifting the federal funding ban for 

The resolution, which will be used to guide the U.S. Conference of 
Mayors' Washington lobbying on addiction issues, passed with minimal 
debate, clearing two committees and the general assembly by unanimous votes.

"The mayors are clearly signaling the serious need for drug policy 
reform," said Daniel Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the 
Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), who worked with Anderson's staff to draft 
the resolution. Daniel Robelo, a DPA legal research assistant, said 
the resolution could become an "incredibly powerful" advocacy tool 
for DPA and other drug-reform groups. "While it has no legal effect, 
it has a powerful symbolic effect," he said.

Alexa Eggleston, director of national policy for the Legal Action 
Center, which advocates for increased investment in addiction 
treatment and prevention, praised the mayors for acknowledging "that 
alcohol and drug addiction is a treatable medical illness and is 
supportive of expanding treatment to the approximately 21 million 
Americans with alcohol and drug problems who need it, expanding 
effective prevention initiatives in communities nationwide, and 
fighting discrimination against people with addiction histories by 
repealing discriminatory laws and policies that prevent them from 
accessing employment, insurance and other necessities of life."

But Tom Riley, a spokesperson for ONDCP, called the resolution a 
"grab bag" of DPA positions and a publicity stunt by proponents of 
drug legalization. "We don't think it's very serious," he said of the 
resolution, adding that to declare the drug war a failure "is a 
slogan rather than a policy proposal."

"Most of the mayors our office talks to consider drugs a huge problem 
in their communities and are anxious to get more resources for 
prevention, treatment and law enforcement," said Riley. "I don't know 
many mayors who are in favor of drug legalization."

Anderson is no newcomer to the drug issue: He has previously called 
the drug war "phony, inhumane and ineffective," and his official 
biography calls him "an outspoken advocate for drug policy reform." 
He received the DPA's 2005 Richard J. Dennis Drugpeace Award for 
outstanding achievements in the field of drug policy reform.

Nor is Anderson alone in his harsh criticism of the drug war: Newark 
Mayor Cory Booker, seen as a rising political leader, recently stated 
that he's prepared to go to jail to protest a war on drugs that he 
sees as shackling African-Americans into poverty and feeding crime 
and murder in his city.

"I'm going to battle on this," Booker recently told the Newark 
Star-Ledger. "We're going to start this in the gentlemanly way. And 
then we're going to do the civil disobedience way. Because this is absurd."

Booker says he wants to see nonviolent drug offenders placed in 
treatment programs and halfway houses, not prisons, and to stop 
banning ex-offenders from jobs. "The drug war is causing crime," he 
said. "It's just chewing up young Black men. And it's killing Newark."
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