Drug Policy Action Statement on Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force Recommendations

Positive Reforms Remain Overshadowed by Harmful Drug War Policies, Such as Marijuana Prohibition and Drug Courts, That Continue to Surveil, Traumatize and Inflict Violence on Marginalized Communities

Contact: 
Matt Sutton 212-613-8026

July 10, 2020 – Washington, D.C. – In response to the criminal justice reform recommendations released Wednesday by the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force, Maritza Perez, Director of National Affairs for Drug Policy Action issued the following statement:

“We commend the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force’s recommendations to abolish the death penalty, end mandatory minimums, reinstate federal parole, appoint a Bureau of Prisons (BOP) watchdog, expand Pell grants to people with drug convictions, create a national police use-of-force standard, and for the inclusion of a slew of other provisions we’ve long advocated as essential to justice reform. But we are troubled by the reluctance to deschedule marijuana and the continued promotion of drug courts and coercive diversion programs.

The need to stop prosecuting people for drugs has never been more urgent, as jails and prisons have become hotspots for COVID-19 and the public is finally waking up to the extreme racial disparities that exist in the system, and yet this plan fails to meet the moment and fully realize the work at hand.

Marijuana legalization enjoys broad support across the political spectrum and among various demographic groups. Rescheduling marijuana, rather than outright descheduling it, will not decriminalize marijuana. It will mean that Black and Brown individuals will still be disproportionately harassed and policed for marijuana use.

Further, many of the same constructs that led to mass criminalization and incarceration are behind involuntary and coercive treatment, including racism, stigmatization, ableism, and profit over people. Involuntary and coercive treatments are billed as the solution to the problem of people who are unwilling to enter treatment. The root problem, however, is systematic inequality and lack of access to resources, including attractive evidence-informed substance use disorder treatment, that helps people to live healthy, self-sufficient lives. The task force recommendations ignore this and are merely an extension of our country’s punitive approach to drug use.

This proposal is lacking in smart, evidence-informed drug policy. We welcome the opportunity to work with the Biden campaign to strengthen his drug policy platform.”

About Drug Policy Action

Drug Policy Action is the advocacy and political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. A nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization, Drug Policy Action undertakes a wide range of activities including political advocacy permitted by 501(c)(4) organizations. Drug Policy Action works to pass new drug laws and policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights — and to elect candidates at every level who support these principles.