Pubdate: Sat, 08 Sep 2007
Source: Press-Register (Mobile, AL)
Copyright: 2007 Mobile Register
Author: Loretta Nall


I want to thank Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb publicly for her efforts
to ease prison overcrowding and address drug addiction with a more
compassionate approach. It is so important for society to realize that
addiction is an illness that can be treated and not a crime that needs

Regardless of how people get addicted, they are still someone's
mother, father, daughter, son, husband, wife or friend. Not one of
them longed to be an alcoholic or drug addict when he or she was a

Many of you know me as a voice for drug policy and prison reform in
Alabama and as a candidate for governor in the 2006 election. I am
also a family member who has witnessed the devastating impact that
drugs and alcohol can have on human lives.

I have two brothers, one in prison and one who just overdosed for the
ninth time on methadone provided to him by the VA. I love them both
very much, despite their addictions. I know for a fact that locking
such folks in prison does not work. It simply drives them insane, and
when they are released it's like they are coming out of a war zone.

While I am happy to see drug courts expand in Alabama, I fear that
they will simply round up pot-smokers to fill their treatment beds.
Those beds should be kept available for people suffering from
addiction to hard drugs like alcohol, methamphetamine, crack/powder
cocaine and opiates, both pharmaceutical and street versions.

However, pot-smokers are much more numerous than all other drug users
combined, and chances are some of these courts will get the majority
of their funds from responsible adult marijuana consumers.

So much for the theory of safety in numbers. If that is allowed to
happen, then we will find ourselves in the same predicament that we
have with the prisons: too many people who don't need to be there
taking up all the room for those who do need to be there.

When used responsibly by adults, marijuana should be exempt from all
criminal sanctions, police involvement and court oversight. We all
know it is safer than alcohol and not addictive to the degree that
anyone actually suffers withdrawal if he or she quits.

Unless people who smoke pot are doing something to endanger others,
there is no reason for the police or the courts to be involved.

Taking responsible adult pot-smokers out of the drug court equation
will greatly enable the drug courts to better help the people who
really need help.

Loretta Nall

Alexander City
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