Pubdate: Sun, 22 Mar 2015
Source: Oneida Daily Dispatch (NY)
Copyright: 2015 Oneida Daily Dispatch - a Journal Register Property
Author: Jolene Cleaver


CAZENOVIA - On ideas about future drug policy, a speaker Friday night 
in Cazenovia talked grassroots action and called for politicians to do more.

The program, "War on Drugs: Charting the past, present and future of 
drug policy in the United States, "was part of the 2015 Cazenovia 
forum, and was held in Caz College's Catherine Cummings Theater.

Speaking was Gabriel Sayegh, the managing director of policy and 
campaigns at the New York State Office of Drug Policy Alliance.

Sayegh told the crowd how he grew up in a small farming community in 
Northern California, and how a lack of community support and services 
lead to him using methamphetamines.

He never was arrested, and he never was in a formal treatment 
program, but he was able to re-direct his life.

Sayegh noted that affordable drug treatment and detox centers are 
scarce in any community, and that many people can't get the help they 
need. He also hinted that he felt resources are also going toward 
never-ending battles.

Referencing a 2010 ACLU report, Sayegh said that in that year alone, 
New York spent $678 million prosecuting possession of marijuana 
charges. That figure included law enforcement and court system costs.

Sayegh challenged the audience to imagine what could have been done 
with that money if it had been used for treatment services.

He also said there is a large number of people incarcerated for drug 
offenses who have serious drug addictions and mental health issues.

The DPA promotes drug policies that advance the proposition that the 
war on drugs is doing more harm than good and promotes alternative 
policies to reduce the harms of both drug use and drug prohibition.

Sayegh partners with community organizing groups, human service 
agencies and researchers. Recent campaigns include ending New York's 
marijuana arrest practice, developing municipal-based drug 
strategies, passing and implementing historic 911 Good Samaritan 
legislation to prevent accidental overdose fatalities, creating a 
regulated medical marijuana program, and reforming New York's 
Rockefeller Drug Laws.

Before the program began, conversations scattered through the crowd 
of about 60 concerning how drugs are affecting Central New York 
communities. After the program, audience members called the forum "excellent".

Cazenovia resident John Cawley said he agreed with Sayegh's idea of 
treating drug offenses as a health problem.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom