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Drug Law Reform Overview

The Issue

The United States has approximately one quarter of the world’s prison population. One large contributing factor is due to stringent drug laws that are putting large amounts of non-violent offenders behind bars for long periods of time, on the tax-payer’s dollar. With growing support for the legalization of medicinal marijuana, drug law reform is a hot button issue for many states. NACDL fights to prevent discriminatory and disproportionate laws often inherent in many drug laws. Instead of individuals addicted to drugs receiving the help they need, they are often thrown into prisons and forgotten about. Reform is needed in order to ensure that access to treatment is by request and not structured within the criminal justice system.

Current News

Drug Image 
In 2017, Oregon decriminalized personal possession of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs, making it a misdemeanor instead of a felony and expanding access to drug treatment for people without prior felonies or convictions for drug possession. 

2016 Legislative Update

Recreation and medical marijuana reform was victorious in several states on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. California, Main, Massachusetts and Nevada all voted to end prohibition and Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota passed medical marijuana laws. In addition, Montana voted to re-establish patients’ access to medical marijuana providers. Eight states have now adopted laws that legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana and medical marijuana has been adopted in 28 states. 

Marijuana Facts

In July 2016 the Drug Policy Alliance released a report marijuana.  This comprehensive report lays out the history of marijuana, the effects of marijuana, where it is legalized and more. See report here

NACDL Resolution on End of Drug War

In addition, in November 2000, NACDL passed a Resolution of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Calling for an End to the War on Drugs.  

NACDL’s Drug Law Reform page provides recent news articles, newly released reports and external resources.



News Of Interest

"Report: Americans Are Now More Likely To Die Of An Opioid Overdose Than On The Road," by Ian Stewart, NPR, January 14, 2019.

"Cannabis Alarmism Hinders Smart Regulations," by Alex Gertner and Kelsey Priest, The Appeal, January 14, 2019.

"Report: Philly narcotics cops faked paperwork to hide informants. Hundreds of cases may be challenged.," by Samantha Melamed and Mark Fazlollah, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 12, 2019.

"Opioid prescription database helps Pa. doctors find at-risk patients," by Nina Feldman, WHYY, January 9, 2019.

"N.J.’s top court just made it easier for recovering addicts to clean up their criminal record," by S.P. Sullivan, NJ Advance Media, January 8, 2019.

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