As more states vote to legalize marijuana, it is imperative that we as a country remain vigilant in trying to put an end to unjust criminal convictions for non-violent drug users in states where cannabis and other drugs are not legal. The Drug Policy Alliance or DPA, a highly-regarded organization working to put an end to the war on drugs will be releasing a model for a potential federal drug decriminalization effort. They state their mission as being, “To advance those policies and attitudes that best reduce the harms of both drug use and drug prohibition, and to promote the sovereignty of individuals over their minds and bodies.”
The DPA recently released a summary of what they are referring to as the “Drug Policy Reform Act.” The main goal of the “Drug Policy Reform Act “would be to decriminalize drugs, including cannabis, federally in order to limit the harm done to Americans by unjust criminal drug laws.
What is the Drug Policy Reform Act?
From what we know so far, the “Drug Policy Reform Act” would seek to end strict sentencing protocols such as mandatory minimums for drug conspiracy offenses. The bill would provide for expungements of the criminal records of those with non-violent drug crime convictions. It would also seek to defund the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in an effort to limit the ability of the federal government to supersede state marijuana laws.
There will undoubtedly be more potential reform measures featured in the full version of the Drug Policy Alliance “Drug Policy Reform Act” but what have been proposed so far are incredibly important federal decriminalization policies that could have a drastic impact on all Americans.
Drug decriminalization is not the same thing as full drug legalization. While legalization allows for the legal production, sales, and use of a drug, federal decriminalization seeks only to make sure no one goes to prison for using a drug. Marijuana decriminalization usually means that while you are not allowed to produce or purchase marijuana, you will not face criminal charges for possessing or using it.
It is yet to be determined whether Congress will take any of the ideas proposed by the Drug Policy Alliance seriously or if they will yet again sit on their hands while thousands of Americans a year are put behind bars for non-violent drug offenses. At the very least, Congress should take account of the potential federal decriminalization measures proposed by the DPA.