States have changed anti-drug policies in more than 150 ways in the last six years, reports the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group. A survey by the organization cited a range of issues, including alternatives to incarceration, protecting medical marijuana patients and providers, expanding sterile syringe availability, and restoring benefits and voting rights to former drug offenders.
The alliance contends that 46 states have passed “more effective and fiscally-responsible legislation” than has the federal government. Seventeen states, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Vermont and Washington, passed three or more pieces of drug policy reform legislation between 1996 and 2002.
“It’s exciting to see state after state taking a look at their drug policies and saying, ‘Hey, we could do this a lot better,’” said Washington State Sen. Adam Kline. (D-Seattle) “We’re close to our constituents, and know what’s important to them — real safety, better healthcare and fiscal responsibility. These types of reforms address all of those concerns.”
Alliance director Ethan Nadelmann contends that state legislators “are increasingly shedding their fear of being labeled ‘soft on drugs.’ It’s only a matter of time before Congress follows suit.”
Among issues examined by the alliance:
Alternatives to Incarceration – Six were enacted between 1996 and 2002 in Arizona, California, Washington, D.C., and Hawaii.
Medical Marijuana – Fifteen reforms to protect medical marijuana patients and providers were enacted between 1996 and 2002 in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
Sterile Syringe Availability – Between 1996 and 2002, nine states passed legislation to increase the availability of syringes through needle exchange programs, pharmacy deregulation and the decriminalization of syringe possession. Those states are: Arkansas, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and Washington.
Other reform issues include: reforming drug sentencing, reducing fatal overdoses, banning racial profiling, restoring benefits and voting rights to former offenders, promoting industrial hemp and reducing civil asset forfeiture abuses.