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Drug Law Reform Overview


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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. 


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. 


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


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.


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

"Opinion: Little Rock’s dangerous and illegal drug war," by Radley Balko, Washington Post, October 14, 2018.

"Convictions dismissed in tainted drug cases," by Marie Szaniszlo, Boston Herald, October 12, 2018.

"U.K. to Allow Prescriptions for Medicinal Cannabis," by Iliana Magra, New York Times, October 11, 2018.

"Prescriptions for Millions of Opioid Pills Lead to Charges Against 5 Doctors," by Benjamin Weiser, New York Times, October 11, 2018.

"Trapped by the ‘Walmart of Heroin’," by Jennifer Percy, New York Times, October 10, 2018.

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