Home / National News / US Should Decriminalize Use of All Illicit Drugs, Rights Groups Say


(NEW YORK) — The U.S. should decriminalize the use of all illicit drugs, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union said in a joint report on Wednesday.

“Every 25 seconds someone is funneled into the criminal justice system, accused of nothing more than possessing drugs for personal use,” Tess Borden, a fellow at Human Rights Watch and the ACLU, and author of the report, said in a statement.

“These wide-scale arrests have destroyed countless lives while doing nothing to help people who struggle with dependence,” Borden added.

At least two people every minute in the U.S. get arrested for drug possession for personal use, according to the two advocacy groups.

The nearly 200-page-long report also outlines some major flaws within the way the U.S. criminal justice system deals with this massive number of drug-possession arrests, including racial disparities in the arrest rates.

In New York, black adults are more than five times as likely to be arrested for drug possession than white adults, despite the fact that black adults use drugs at similar or even lower rates than white adults, according to the study. In other states, the gap between black and white arrests for drug use is even wider.

The groups interviewed 149 people who were prosecuted for using drugs across four states and hundreds of other individuals, including family members of those arrested, government officials, attorneys, service providers and activists.

The report concluded that criminalizing personal drug use is a “colossal waste of lives and resources,” according to Borden.

“If governments are serious about addressing problematic drug use, they need to end the current revolving door of drug possession arrests, and focus on effective health strategies instead.”

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