Letter to the New York Times Responding to "Outrageous Sentences for Marijuana" | Center on Addiction

Letter to the New York Times Responding to "Outrageous Sentences for Marijuana"

Letter to the New York Times Responding to "Outrageous Sentences for Marijuana"

April 25, 2016

Published Letter

To the Editor: 

Whether or not the Supreme Court rules that draconian mandatory sentences for marijuana use are constitutional, they are an ineffective, harmful and extremely costly policy approach to substance use.

Marijuana use should be treated as a public health problem, not a crime. Incarcerating people for using marijuana serves neither the individual’s nor the public’s interest. Having a criminal record for marijuana use is damaging to people’s livelihoods and life opportunities, particularly for youths.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse supports decriminalization, a public health approach that imposes penalties intended to discourage marijuana use and encourage treatment when necessary — for example, fines or mandatory evaluation by an addiction treatment professional.

For individuals charged with more serious marijuana crimes (distribution), courts should explore the use of alternative sentencing programs like drug courts and evaluate their effectiveness in reducing substance use, recidivism and costs.

Emily C. Feinstein
The writer is director of health law and policy at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

 

 

 

 

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