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Maine ACLU, Maine Center for Economic Policy release report calling for drug decriminalization

Advocates are calling for the decriminalization of drug use and possession in the state.

MAINE, USA — After Maine saw a 25 percent increase in overdose deaths in 2021 from the previous year, some advocates are calling for drug decriminalization. 

On Monday, the Maine ACLU and Maine Center for Economic Policy held a press conference, discussing a new report that recommends decriminalizing drug use and possession in the state. 

"In addition to the very real toll that the war on drugs inflicts on Mainers' physical and mental wellbeing, collectively we pay millions of dollars each year in financial costs," James Myall, an economic policy analyst at MECEP, said. "Year over year, Maine has prioritized incarcerating and criminalizing people who use drugs over making treatment for drug use more available. Not only is this approach ineffective, but it's extremely costly."

According to the report, Maine spends roughly $111 million each year processing, trying, and incarcerating individuals for drug offenses. 

The report recommends that Maine decriminalize drugs while moving toward and investing in public health approaches to drug use.

"There is a clear consensus for a public health approach to address the needs of people with substance use disorder. It is time to ensure our policies center and support that approach," the report's lead author, Winifred Tate, an associate professor of anthropology and the Maine Drug Policy Lab director at Colby College, said. "In order to do so, we must decriminalize the possession and use of drugs in our state and invest in our communities."

The report highlights the cost of criminalizing drug use, the impact on incarcerated individuals for drug possession and use, and challenges with the legal system associated with drug criminalization. 

You can read the full report here.

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