Liberals Call For Decriminalization of All Illicit Drugs for Personal Use

By Penny Starr | October 12, 2016 | 8:08pm EDT
Tess Borden, Aryeh Neier Fellow with Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union, spoke about a report on drug decriminalization at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 12, 2016. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union released a report on Wednesday in support of the effort to stop drug arrests and convictions for the personal use of all drugs, citing the harm it does to people, including non-citizens, who might face deportation.

“The consequences of a conviction can mean that individuals and sometimes whole families are excluded from public benefits such as food stamps, housing, wages and job opportunities and even the voting booth next month,” Tess Borden, Aryeh Neier Fellow at both liberal organizations and author of the report, said at a press conference at the National Press Club.

“For non-citizens it can mean possible deportation,” she added.

“Human Rights Watch and the ACLU are calling on all states and the U.S. Congress to decriminalize the personal use and possession of all illicit drugs,” Borden said.



Under the immigration portion of the report it stated: “A misdemeanor or felony conviction for drug possession can have life-changing immigration consequences for non-US citizens. Under federal law, a drug possession conviction is grounds for inadmissibility, meaning that a non-citizen convicted of possession cannot legally enter or remain in the United States and cannot adjust status to US citizenship. Except for possession of marijuana under 30 grams, any conviction for drug possession also makes a non-citizen who is living in or visiting the United States deportable. Once deported, non-citizens are permanently barred by their drug offenses from returning to live with their families in the United States. One immigration attorney told Human Rights Watch that for many people, deportation can feel like a life sentence without the possibility of parole.”

The 196-page report, “Every 25 Seconds; The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States,” has a long list of recommendations, including:

• Make drug possession a ticketable offense or, at the very least, a misdemeanor, regardless of the nature of the drug, drug quantity or weight, and number of prior convictions.

• Amend habitual offender laws to exclude drug possession entirely, such that 1) possession charges cannot be enhanced based on prior convictions, and 2) possession convictions cannot be used to enhance another charge.

• Enact legislation or regulations to substantially limit the circumstances in which the use or possession for personal use of drugs is grounds for the revocation of pretrial supervision, probation, or parole.

• Include a retroactivity provision in all future reforms to drug use and possession laws, and, to the extent possible, apply the terms of already enacted reforms to decrease the drug sentences of individuals sentenced for the same offenses prior to the reforms.

“Enforcement ruins individual and family lives, discriminates against people of color, and undermines public health,” a press release distributed at the press conference stated. “The federal and state governments should decriminalize the personal use and possession of illicit drugs.”

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