Gubernatorial hopeful open to decriminalizing drugs

Last modified: Tuesday, April 08, 2014

BOSTON (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Juliette Kayyem said Wednesday she would be open to decriminalizing drugs beyond marijuana to help those who use them get treatment instead of filling up prisons.

“What you’re seeing in other states is getting drug offenders, whatever the drugs are, it might be cocaine, it might be crack, whatever, out of the criminal justice system by essentially decriminalizing it and getting them into drug courts,” she said.

Kayyem, one of five Democrats seeking the party’s nomination, pointed to a ballot question approved by Massachusetts voters in 2008 decriminalizing possession of up to an ounce of pot, making it a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine.

“So marijuana is a $100 fine. That seems about right given the challenges we have,” Kayyem said.

Kayyem said that if elected governor, she would focus on getting nonviolent offenders who use cocaine, crack or other drugs into drug courts or diversion programs, saying they are often doing more harm to themselves than anyone else.

“This is how we’re going to do it, to begin to think creatively about why we’re putting people into jail and losing entire generations of people because of bad, false sentencing,” she said.

Another Democratic candidate for governor, Joe Avellone, said if elected he would create an Office of Recovery under the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and expand the number of drug courts

Avellone said it’s more effective and less expensive to send someone to treatment through drug court than to send them to prison.


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