U.S. Mayors Declare Drug War a Failure

From Join Together:

The mayors of America’s large cities have unanimously approved a resolution stating that the drug war “has failed” and calling for a harm-reduction oriented approach to drug policy that focuses on public health.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted the resolution during its June 21-26 annual meeting in Los Angeles, calling for a “new bottom line” in drug policy that “concentrates more fully on reducing the negative consequences associated with drug abuse, while ensuring that our policies do not exacerbate these problems or create new social problems of their own; establishes quantifiable, short- and long-term objectives for drug policy; saves taxpayers money; and holds state and federal agencies responsible.”

Sponsored by Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, the resolution states that the drug war costs $40 billion annually but has not cut drug use or demand. It slams the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s (ONDCP) drug-prevention programs — specifically, the agency’s national anti-drug media campaign — as “costly and ineffective,” but called drug treatment cost-effective and a major contributor to public safety because it prevents criminal behavior.

“This Conference recognizes that addiction is a chronic medical illness that is treatable, and drug treatment success rates exceed those of many cancer therapies,” the document states.

The resolution condemns mandatory minimum sentences and incarceration of drug offenders, particularly minorities, and called for more control of anti-drug spending and priorities at the local level, where the impact is most acutely felt.

“U.S. policy should not be measured solely on drug-use levels or number of people imprisoned, but rather on the amount of drug-related harm reduced,” according to the resolution. The document calls for more accountability among federal, state and local drug agencies, with funding tied to performance measures, more treatment funding and alternatives to incarceration, and lifting the federal funding ban for needle-exchanges.

The resolution, which will be used to guide the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Washington lobbying on addiction issues, passed with minimal debate, clearing two committees and the general assembly by unanimous votes.

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