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Human rights groups call for drug decriminalization

Two prominent human rights groups have recently stepped forward to call for changes to our federal laws that even a decade ago would have seemed unthinkable — the decriminalization of possession and personal use of drugs of all kinds. Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, two of the most highly-regarded organizations in their field, released a joint statement just days ago insisting that the harsh enforcement of drug laws has done far more to ruin lives and tear apart families than it has done to minimize drug abuse. The two organizations also backed a report detailing findings supporting their claims.

The report paints a grim picture of a failing system. According to its author, "every 25 seconds someone is funneled into the criminal justice system, accused of nothing more than possessing drugs for personal use," a staggering statistic from any viewpoint.

While some states and cities have enacted various decriminalization measures for marijuana in recent years, drugs that are generally perceived as much more dangerous have not received similar treatment. Under the urging of Human Rights Watch and the ACLU, even more contentious substances with high fatality rates, such as cocaine and heroin, would be eligible for decriminalization. The organizations contend that the laws intended to keep users from indulging have little or no effect on usage rates, but rather serve to make a bad situation worse by tossing an addict into a system where he or she faces little chance of recovering.

Of course, this idea is not being met with welcome arms by law enforcement, even those branches who are willing to admit that the current system does little to help addicts. While the human rights groups argue that the war on drugs is an endless fight that cannot be won, law enforcement contends that without penalties for use, few users would seek help, while more widespread use might lead to surges in drug-related violence and other forms of crime.

Regardless of the merits of such a proposal, drug possession and personal use are still considered crimes under the current laws, and drug charges should not be taken lightly. If you have been charged with a drug crime, the representation of an experienced, understanding attorney can help you get the help you need while seeing that your rights remain protected.

Source: KAKE, "Major rights groups: Decriminalize use of all illicit drugs," David Crary, Oct. 14, 2016

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