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Baltimore Grand Jury Advocates Decriminalization, Medicalization


March 1995

A 42-page report by a Baltimore grand jury commissioned to look at the topic of drug legalization recommended decriminalization of marijuana and medicalization of other drugs as avenues toward solving some of the problems associated with drug abuse ("Report of the Grand Jury of Baltimore City," Sept. Term 1994, Sept. 12, 1994-Jan. 6, 1995; Jap Apperson, "Grand Jury Suggests Giving Addicts Drugs," Baltimore Sun, Feb. 9, 1995, p. 1).

After an analysis of the treatment, criminal justice, and health implications of long-term drug abuse, the report found that current approaches to drug abuse do not work. Treatment is scarce, virtually unavailable for indigent drug abusers in Baltimore City. The impact of drug-related violence on the health care and criminal justice industries is a major drain on taxpayers.

While members of the grand jury agreed that something must be done to take the profits out of the illegal drug market, they were cautious about recommending particular solutions. Nevertheless, they agreed that legalization of illegal drugs is not an acceptable option and would lead to increasing numbers of drug-addicted people.

Decriminalization of marijuana and medicalization and regulation of other drugs are solutions the grand jury favored. The report states that expanded access to treatment is one of the most important steps toward ending problems associated with drug abuse, and that treatment saves future costs in criminal justice and health care.

"I was pleased they came down on the side of making the war on drugs more of a public health war rather than just a criminal justice war," Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said. "I think [the report] is going to be an influential document. These are 23 average citizens from all walks of life in the community."

[To obtain a copy of this report, contact the Jury Division of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Room 241 Court House West, 110 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD, 21202, 410-333-3775.]