Pubdate: Tue, 26 Apr 2016
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2016 The New York Times Company
Author: Emily C. Feinstein


To the Editor:

Re "Outrageous Sentences for Marijuana" (editorial, April 14):

Whether or not the Supreme Court rules that draconian mandatory 
sentences for marijuana use are constitutional, they are an 
ineffective, harmful and extremely costly policy approach to substance use.

Marijuana use should be treated as a public health problem, not a 
crime. Incarcerating people for using marijuana serves neither the 
individual's nor the public's interest. Having a criminal record for 
marijuana use is damaging to people's livelihoods and life 
opportunities, particularly for youths.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse supports 
decriminalization, a public health approach that imposes penalties 
intended to discourage marijuana use and encourage treatment when 
necessary - for example, fines or mandatory evaluation by an 
addiction treatment professional.

For individuals charged with more serious marijuana crimes 
(distribution), courts should explore the use of alternative 
sentencing programs like drug courts and evaluate their effectiveness 
in reducing substance use, recidivism and costs.


New York

The writer is director of health law and policy at the National 
Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.
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