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News Release:
NYCLA Releases Major Study on Drug Policy

Drug Reform Coordination Network
(DRCNet) Rapid Response Team

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New York County Lawyers' Association
14 Vesey Street, New York, NY 10007
Contact: Brook S. Mason, (212) 267-6646, ext. 225

NYCLA Releases Major Study on Drug Policy

New York, NY, November 12, 1996....The New York County Lawyers' Association released a major study on an issue of national importance -- the Report and Recommendations of the Drug Policy Task Force -- and declared the nation's present drug policy a disaster.

The Drug Policy Task Force, a 42 member blue-ribbon panel of prominent federal and state judges, legislators, attorneys, medical practitioners, educators and policy analysts, was convened by NYCLA in the fall of 1993. Its 50-page report issued this month emphasizes that, despite the vast public resources expended on the enforcement of drug law statutes, contemporary drug policy "has failed, even on its own terms" to meet its objectives, and called for "a dramatic shift in thinking and approach in development and implementation of future drug control efforts."

"We strongly believe that only by treating drug abuse as a public health issue will the nation curb the escalation of drug abuse and drug-related violence," said John J. Kenney, NYCLA president.

The NYCLA Task Force found that the current "penal" model of drug policy with its emphasis on arrest, prosecution and incarceration of offenders has managed neither to curb substance abuse nor to reduce violence associated with the illicit drug trade.

In recommending replacement of the current penal model with its criminalization of substance abusers by a public health model emphasizing education, vocational assistance and access to medical treatment, the Task Force stopped short of recommending legalization of most controlled substances. However, the NYCLA Drug Policy Task Force recommended the decriminalization of marijuana. For future drug policy, it advised "further study and serious consideration of other alternative, non-criminal, regulatory drug control measures."

Included in its Recommendations, consisting of a 10-point plan for broad policy reforms, are the following:

Further advocating rejection of what it characterized as the government's "zero tolerance" approach to drug policy, the NYCLA Drug Policy Task Force has included many suggestions compatible with "harm reduction" theory, a significant drug strategy which seeks to identify and reduce harms associated with drug use, the illicit drug trade and drug control measures themselves. Such proposals include: expansion of needle exchange programs as well as methadone clinics; dissemination of accurate information about drug use; attempts to separate hard drug markets, i. e. cocaine and heroin, from markets for soft drugs like marijuana; improving access to medical care for substance abusers; and redirecting law enforcement, court and correctional resources to focus more efforts on perpetrators of violent crime.

In arriving at such recommendations, the NYCLA Task Force specifically noted the enormous economic and social costs of present drug policies, widespread negative effects on public health occasioned by such policies, the widely disparate impact of current laws and enforcement policies on impoverished and minority communities and upon women, as well as the apparent role of three decades of contemporary drug policy in exacerbating rather than alleviating violence in communities across the country.

Attached is a copy of the NYCLA Drug Policy Task Force Report and Recommendations. The list of participants of the NYCLA Drug Policy Task Force is contained in the report. The printing and distribution of this report is supported by a grant from the Washington, DC-based Drug Policy Foundation. The Report is also available on the World Wide Web
at: http://www.drcnet.org/nycla.html and http:/www.lindesmith.org/nycla.html.


NYCLA is one of the largest local bar associations in the nation. Since its founding in 1908, NYCLA has dedicated itself to the New York community as well as the legal profession by offering a wide variety of public services and educational programs.

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