Pubdate: Tue, 14 May 2013
Source: Buffalo News (NY)
Copyright: 2013 The Buffalo News
Author: Eric A. Gallion


I'm pleased to see at last a broad opening up of the discussion of
our country's failed "war on drugs." I recently attended a conference
in Buffalo, titled "Leading the Way: Toward a Public Health & Safety
Approach to Drug Policy in New York." Presented by the Baldy Center
for Law and Social Policy at the University at Buffalo and the Drug
Policy Alliance, it began by viewing and discussing the award-winning
documentary: "The House I Live In," which chronicled the ravages to
the lives of people and communities ground up by our current policies
toward illicit drugs.

The thrust of the conference was that current state and federal drug
policies are a failure, and cause more harm than good. We need to
shift from a criminal justice-centered punitive approach to a public
health and safety approach. This emphasizes helping individuals who
need it, while limiting the collateral damage caused by the criminal
justice system approach.

This is an evidence-based approach that provides real benefits to the
community  both in helping troubled individuals, as well as freeing up
police and the court system to prosecute serious crimes. It would
especially help reduce the damage done to low-income communities,
where young men are drawn into the drug culture as one of the few
economic opportunities open to them. Once they have a felony
conviction, they are mostly barred for life from any legal employment

As evidenced by the May 5 Viewpoints articles  one by Dr. Robert
Whitney, warning of the dangers of marijuana legalization, and one by
Froma Harrop, calling for its legalization, this is a timely topic
that generates a lot of interest. The states of Colorado and
Washington are experimenting with legalization, and other states are
considering related actions toward decriminalization. I'm hoping that
out of these discussions we will be able to move ahead with more just,
fair and humane policies that will benefit all our

Eric A. Gallion

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