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Policy Reform Group Decries Approach to Drug Sellers

December 20, 2019

The line people draw between “drug user” and “drug dealer” is arbitrary and largely misleading, argues a new report from drug policy reform organization the Drug Policy Alliance. Moreover, the report states that the harsh approach taken to drug sellers might be proving counterproductive to combating overdose and drug-related violence.

“With a record 70,000 deaths from accidental overdose in 2017, people are understandably searching for solutions, but applying harsh penalties to drug sellers scapegoats people who are more often than not drug users as well, while ignoring the larger issue,” Lindsay LaSalle, managing director of public health law and policy at the Drug Policy Alliance, said this week in a news release about the report.

Rethinking the Drug Dealer states that nearly half of people who report selling drugs also meet criteria for a substance use disorder, fueling the argument that some selling is designed to support one's dependence. According to the report, data indicate that contrary to contentions in the legal system, efforts to crack down on sellers end up disproportionately affecting the lowest-level individuals in the supply chain.

The Drug Policy Alliance also cites data suggesting that a soaring rate of incarceration of sellers has done little to limit the supply of drugs, which are readily available at decreasing prices.

The report's recommendations are based on principles that start with the notion that “society should deal with drug involvement outside the destructive apparatus of criminalization—and to the extent that the criminal justice system continues to focus on drug selling and distribution, it must do so with a commitment to proportionality and due process.”

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