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US Drug Czar Calls for an End to Laws That Punish People in Recovery

In a speech at The Betty Ford Center, US Drug Car Gil Kerlikowske called for an end to laws and statutes that continue to punish people already striving for recovery.

Calling drug addiction a treatable brain disease and not a moral failing, Kerlikowske spoke about a real shift in the way the Office of National Drug Control Policy now looks at the issue and announced that programs for prevention and treatment now receive more federal funding ($30 billion over the last 3 years) than law enforcement and incarceration combined.

But there is still much that can be done, said Kerlikowske, who highlighted thousands of laws and statutes that were originally drafted to deter drug use but which have resulted in policies that most effectively punish people already trying for recovery.

In his speech, he noted that “Research from the National Institute of Justice found 38,000 state and local statutes that impose additional penalties on people convicted of crimes—including drug-related crimes. These laws burden people who have already served their sentences–in other words, they have already paid their price back to society. We must modify or repeal laws that keep a qualified person in recovery from getting the basics they need to rejoin society. When housing, employment, or student loans—even something as basic as a driver’s license—are out of reach for someone in recovery, the government is only making it more difficult for him or her to succeed.”

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