The Kings County Bar Association proposal was released yesterday to the press and, while it’s gotten no coverage to speak of so far outside of Seattle, both the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post Intelligencer gave it some nice positive coverage.
It is clearly being seen as an opening salvo in a long-term effort.
Proponents of the controversial idea, outlined in a report released yesterday, say continuing to deal with drug addiction as a crime instead of a medical problem is not only expensive, it simply doesn’t work.
They say letting the state regulate now-illegal drugs would curb all kinds of problems in society that the so-called war on drugs has failed to address, including gang violence, petty crime and drug use by kids.
“It’s time for us to take a fresh look at how we are dealing with the use and abuse of drugs in our society,” said the Rev. Sandy Brown, executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle, which also stands behind the proposal.
“Our solutions aren’t working. … They’ve actually created injustices that need to be fixed.”
Supporters acknowledge the idea is too new and controversial to get off the ground this year, despite a state Senate bill that proposed a first step. Bar association President John Cary said the idea, for now, is to get a discussion going about a sweeping drug-policy overhaul.
The Seattle P.I. article not only gave the proposal a good overview, it focused on positive comments by supporters, and even reasonable responses by opponents.
King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng said the way drug cases are handled “continues to be an important issue that deserves further discussion and study.”
In a written statement yesterday, he said, “While I don’t agree with the Bar Association’s proposal, it’s important to note that we have made significant changes in our criminal justice system with regard to decreasing sentences and increasing treatment options for drug offenders.”
Within all of that, the one real negative — naturally from Tom Riley of the ONDCP — sounded remarkably ignorant
Tom Riley, a spokesman for the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, said he didn’t see how “making drugs less difficult for addicted users to get stems the problem.” He suggested the idea would also invite a flood of lawsuits.
“A state or municipality would have to be crazy to take on the legal liability that would come with distributing products with such known, catastrophic health consequences,” Riley said.
It’s so like the Drug Czar’s office to not even discuss the proposal’s merits, but just throw out ridiculous statements that have no foundation.
Probably the key statement was made by Senator Adam Kline:
“I think the King County Bar Association is light-years ahead of the Legislature in assessing the need for a radical sea change in the policy on drugs,” Kline said.
Exactly. And we need to work on helping the legislature catch up.