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Criminalizing drug use doesn’t help with addiction | COMMENTARY

Men participate during morning meeting at Gaudenzia's addiction treatment center.
Men participate during morning meeting at Gaudenzia's addiction treatment center. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

The Sun editorial (“Arrests are not the way to help people with addictions,” Nov. 18) is on target. After 50-plus years of the so-called “war on drugs,” there is not one outcome measurement showing positive results. Today there are more persons with substance abuse disorders and more overdose deaths, along with millions in prison, communities and families shattered, continuous crime related to the drug trade, corruption, innocent victims, multiple health care consequences, and damage in all demographics, but especially in minority communities. No one, except drug dealers and international cartels, wants substance abuse to continue, but criminalizing use has been disastrously ineffective.

As the first state legislator in the U.S. to introduce legislation, H.B. 1119 in 2016, to turn possession of small amounts of drugs from a criminal offense to a civil one with treatment, I am encouraged to see these ideas finally being seriously considered. Oregon just modified its laws, and hopefully Maryland will do the same. Portugal did this years ago and saw dramatic changes, all for the better, and none of the dire predictions materialized.

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I fully understand that this approach is controversial. It’s hard to change a mindset that has been with us for decades, but our current approach has not worked. If it had, we would not be in the mess we are in.

Along with this shift, more treatment of all types is needed. This would include short term and long term, inpatient and outpatient, and access to all must be available 24 hours day.

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Dr. Dan Morhaim, Pikesville

The writer was a Maryland state delegate from 1995-2019.

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