Drug Policy Should Focus on Public Health and Decriminalization
America’s addiction to incarceration has caused the prison population to skyrocket in the past four decades. Criminalization of addiction has fueled this increase.
Nearly half of all those incarcerated in state prisons are nonviolent offenders, and nearly half of those offenders are serving time for low-level drug offenses. People from low-income communities and people of color are often most affected. Racial disparities are especially prevalent with marijuana arrests.
The Ohio General Assembly recently enacted a bill and is considering others to address addiction instead of further criminalizing it.
H.B. 170 – Opioid Overdose Prevention Prescription Access (enacted): expands the list of licensed health professionals, emergency responders, or peace officers who may prescribe or administer naloxone (commonly known as Narcan), a pharmaceutical drug used to counter the effects of an opioid overdose.
H.B. 363 – Immunity in Drug Related Emergencies (pending): provides immunity from criminal liability for those who seek help for either themselves or others when involved in a drug-related medical emergency.
H.B. 92 – Syringe Exchange Programs (pending): authorizes local boards of health to establish syringe exchanges.
Locking people up is not the way to combat drug use in Ohio. The focus must be on public health, rehabilitation, and decriminalization.