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Civil Rights Groups Call for U.S. to Decriminalize Personal Drug Use

ACLU Marijuana

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Human Rights Watch are both calling for decriminalization of all drugs for personal use. A report issued by the team of organizations showed that arrests for use or purchase of drugs occurs every 25 seconds in the U.S.

The report was titled “Every 25 Seconds” and was authored by Tess Borden, The Guardian reports. In the report it looks at the frequency of arrests for simple drug possession, not those arrested for trafficking or other dangerous drug crimes. In 2015, more than 1.25 million arrests were counted from local law enforcement agencies for either drug possession or use. Roughly, 50 percent of those arrests were for marijuana.

Borden said, “This is the first time both organizations have come together and made such a strong call [for decriminalization].”

One Louisiana man, Tyler Marshall, received at 10-year prison sentence for marijuana possession in 2015. His defense attorney instructed him to plead guilty. Marshall replied with, “Oh, I have to? Yeah. But I’d be lying though.”

Borden’s report details that a vast majority of drug-related cases in the court systems are resolved via plea deals. In New York State, 99.8 percent of adults convicted of drug possession accepted a plea deal over the course of 5 years.

In a conversation with Human Rights Watch, Marshall detailed the difficulties his disabled wife will experience while he is serving his sentence. Marshall said, “My wife, I cook for her, clean for her, bathe her, clothe her. Now everything is on her, from the rent to the bills, everything.”

Given the criminalization of personal drug use in the court system, several international groups, including World Health Organization, have joined together to call for total decriminalization of personal drug use. The call for total decriminalization “takes the mainstream drug conversation a step further,” according to Borden.

Borden also stated: “We’ve driven drug use underground with criminalization and we’ve failed to provide communities who are dealing and struggling with dependence issues the help and the treatment they have the right to.”

Further data in the report show that a majority of those arrested are detained with trace amounts of illicit drugs or marijuana.


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