Criminal Justice Reform
Non-violent drug offenders – regardless of the drug – should not be saddled with criminal records that would imperil their recovery and reintegration into our communities. Still, we also know laws discouraging drug consumption work to keep rates of use down. That is why we support evidence-based reforms that discourage use while avoiding criminal penalties. There are a wide array of smart-on-crime alternatives that remove criminal penalties for smoking marijuana including drug courts, pre-trial diversion programs, and probation reform. Communities are healthier and safer when these reforms are coupled with prevention and treatment programs.
- That possession or use of a small amount of marijuana be a civil offense subject to a mandatory health screening and marijuana-education program as appropriate. Referrals to treatment and/or social-support services should be made if needed. The individual could even be monitored for 6-12 months in a probation program designed to prevent further drug use.
- That there is an end to the practice of “stop-and-frisk.”
- That no marijuana use in any form is permitted in public view.
- That smoke-free laws apply to marijuana and tobacco.
- That there is expungement of any personal record regarding possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Production, Distribution, Dealing and Sale of Marijuana
Smart Approaches to Marijuana seeks fair and proportionate penalties for these crimes and recommends:
- That they remain misdemeanors or felonies based on amounts possessed.
- An end to mandatory minimum sentences so judges can exercise discretion under the law.
- Assessment and mandatory treatment in prison for those who are addicted. Appropriate aftercare should be provided by service providers licensed by the state upon release.
- Restoration of all civil rights once sentences have been served for a personal use marijuana conviction.
- Services for re-entry into the community through Justice Reinvestment or similar programs, such as the Drug Market Initiative(DMI).
Increased Education and Prevention
Research shows that crucial periods of risk for drug use and abuse occur during key life transitions, such as moving from elementary school to middle school and from middle school to high school. One of the most salient risks for youth drug use is associating with drug-abusing peers. Other important community-level risk factors for drug initiation are access to, and availability of, drugs; drug-trafficking patterns and normative beliefs that drug use is “generally tolerated.”[ia]
Softening attitudes are problematic because research demonstrates that illegal drug use among youth lowers their perception of risk (whether one thinks a drug is dangerous) and social disapproval of use. Several journal articles[ii] have substantiated the powerful association between perceived risk and use that cannot be explained away by concurrent shifts in a number of other lifestyle factors. Perceived risk remains a powerful predictor of use, even when controlling for a host of other known risk factors (Bachman et al., 1988; Bachman, Johnston, &O’Malley, 1990 & 1998).
Marijuana-prevention efforts are critical because marijuana is often the first illegal drug youth use. Preventing substance use before it begins not only makes sense, it is also cost-effective. For every dollar invested in prevention, a savings of up to $10 in treatment can be realized.[iii]
Generalized universal prevention programs to help build strong families and provide youth with the skills to make good, healthy decisions are necessary components of effective drug prevention. Drug prevention efforts also need to focus specifically on community risk and protective factors explicitly related to the initiation and use of illegal drugs. These include social norms, access, availability and perceptions of harm. For example, critical policy and environmental interventions (e.g. policies outlawing marijuana storefronts or limiting the sale of drug paraphernalia) are unique to substance abuse prevention and may not be as relevant to other forms of prevention, such as bullying and violence.
Prevention science in the field of substance abuse has made great progress in recent years, resulting in effective intervention to help children reduce the risk of initiating drug use at every step of the developmental path. Working more broadly with families, schools and communities, scientists have found effective ways to help people gain skills and approaches to stop problem behaviors — such as drug use — before they occur. These are called community-based approaches.
Even if community-based approaches have shown their effectiveness, it is also important to mention that other specific interventions, such as family-based approaches, life-skills building and behavior-skills-enhancement games have also proven to be effective.[iv]Criminal Justice Reform Non-violent drug offenders – regardless of the drug – should not be saddled with criminal records that would imperil their recovery and reintegration into our communities. ]]>