Newsbrief: Baltimore Grand Jury Calls for Regulated Drug Distribution to Addicts 5/9/03

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A grand jury in Baltimore Thursday released a report recommending that the government and medical institutions distribute hard drugs in limited doses to addicts as an alternative to unsuccessful current drug policies. The non-binding report calls first for an academic study of the idea to see if it is feasible.

"Conventional modes of attacking the drug problem simply aren't working," wrote 23 grand jurors in a special panel convened in January by Judge Althea Handy. "Regulated distribution begins with the recognition that addiction is a continuing, progressive illness rather than a crime."

The grand jury suggested that the government step in to regulate the price, distribution and purity of drugs. Under the grand jury's scheme, hard drug users would have to register with authorities to purchase drugs, then get prescriptions from a doctor and buy the drugs at a pharmacy. The report also calls for increased drug treatment, job training, education and housing assistance for addicts instead of arrest and incarceration.

Grand jurors pointed to the city's enduring problem with heroin, estimating there are about 60,000 addicts in Baltimore. But Mayor Martin O'Malley disputed that figure and the grand jury's conclusions, saying that the number of addicts had decreased to 40,000 in recent years and that heroin-related deaths had decreased, in part because of increased access to treatment.

"Giving out heroin is diametrically opposed to the approach we are taking," O'Malley told the Baltimore Sun. "If the grand jury is recommending this, they are ignoring the reality of the progress we're making. We've been leading the nation in the rate of decline of drug-related emergency room visits."

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Issue #286, 5/9/03 Editorial: Time for Bill Bennett to Sit Down | DRCNet Interview: Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, Chairman, Canadian Senate Select Committee on Illegal Drugs | Canada Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Cases that Could End Marijuana Laws | Colombia: Pro-Legalization Governor among FARC Hostages Killed in Failed Monday Rescue Attempt | Bolivia Coca Conflict Heating Up Again | Oregon SWAT Raid Victims to File Suit | Tens of Thousands March Worldwide in Annual Million Marijuana March | Newsbrief: Bill "Mr. Virtue" Bennett Outed as Heavy Gambler | Newsbrief: Bush Twins Outed as Tokers by "That '70s Show" Star | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cop Story | Newsbrief: Baltimore Grand Jury Calls for Regulated Drug Distribution to Addicts | Newsbrief: Sentencing Reform Measures Moving in Colorado | Newsbrief: Rhode Island Bill Allowing Eviction for Drug Possession on the Move | Newsbrief: Minnesota High Court Bars Suspicionless Consent Searches, Questioning of Motorists | The Reformer's Calendar

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