The Drug Policy Alliance announced Wednesday their list of priorities for the Biden-Harris administration during its first 100 days in office.
The group provided actions for both Congress and the Executive branch to create meaningful reform in drug policy.
“We look forward to working in partnership with the Biden-Harris administration to pass meaningful drug policy reforms that will shift the focus away from the criminal legal system and towards a compassionate, health-based approach,” said Maritza Perez, Director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “For too long, millions of Americans have been denied justice and access to the health services they need to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. People want change. We’ve heard their voices – including in this most recent election – that we should be addressing drug use differently. The new administration must act on the critical priorities we outline or risk seeing drug-related deaths rise, as they have in past administrations.”
President-Elect Joe Biden will take office on Jan. 20, during one of the biggest public health crises the country has ever seen, the COVID-19 pandemic. Drug overdoses have skyrocketed during the pandemic, as economic uncertainty, lockdown orders, and depression and anxiety have caused an increase in drug use, officials said. More than 70,000 people a year in America from drug overdoses, the alliance said.
For Congress, the alliance said priorities should be to pass legislation that reduces jail time and the prison population during the pandemic. The alliance said that Congress should pass measures for decarceration similar to the ones passed in the HEROs Act in any future stimulus bill, including measures to release prisoners in medically vulnerable groups and those nearing release. Additionally, Congress should ensure jails and prisons have the funding to provide PPE, medical care, and testing, the alliance said.
The group said Congress should also appropriate $58 million for syringe services programs and other harm reduction service providers, replace punitive fentanyl legislation with legislation that takes a public health approach, and de-classify marijuana as a controlled substance.
For the executive branch, the alliance would like to see Biden instruct the U.S. Department of Justice to release medically vulnerable individuals from federal detention centers, as well as to withdraw from litigation challenging the operation of overdose prevention centers. The group also wants Biden to direct the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to extend temporary changes to methadone and buprenorphine access indefinitely. Lastly, the group wants the President to instruct the Food and Drug Administration to exempt naloxone from prescription requirements, making it available over the counter.
“Finally, we must remain vigilant of alternate ways the state can inflict violence on marginalized communities and should reject mandated treatment for people who use drugs. Many of the same constructs that led to mass criminalization and incarceration are behind involuntary and coercive treatment like drug courts, including racism, stigmatization, ableism, and profit over people. We must fight these regressive policies and ensure dollars are instead being funneled to effective, evidence-based, culturally competent, and community-based harm reduction and substance use disorder treatment services,” Perez added.