Coalition Launches Legislative Campaign to Decriminalize Drugs & Increase Access to Services in D.C.

Press Release October 21, 2021
Media Contact

Matt Sutton 212-613-8026
[email protected]

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and HIPS led a coalition of civil rights, public health, criminal justice reform, drug policy and faith groups in calling on the D.C. Council and Mayor to introduce and pass legislation that decriminalizes personal possession of all drugs and increases access to needed harm reduction and other health services in the District. 
The campaign’s legislative proposal, which is expected to be introduced in the D.C. Council in the next upcoming months, decriminalizes the possession of all drugs, establishes a commission to set the thresholds for what constitutes personal possession, provides for expungement and resentencing of past drug possession arrests and convictions, and creates a 24-hour harm reduction center where people who use drugs can access the support services they need and safely consume drugs under the supervision of a trained professional that can react in the case of an overdose or other health emergency.
“We have 50 years of experience to show us what an enforcement-first approach to drugs gets us – record overdose deaths, skyrocketing mass incarceration and severe racial inequality. To continue down this path is not only irresponsible, but cruel and inhumane,” said Queen Adesuyi, Policy Manager for the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “This framework gives the District an opportunity to reimagine what it looks like to provide people the support they need, rather than punishing them for being economically disadvantaged. The drug war has already ruined far too many lives – it’s time we just say ‘NO MORE’.” 
“HIPS is excited to partner with the Drug Policy Alliance to launch #DecrimPovertyDC – a campaign promoting evidence-based approaches to drug policy reform. We are so proud to continue building upon the momentum from last year’s successful campaign to decriminalize drug paraphernalia,” said HIPS’ Outreach and Advocacy Team. “We are dedicated to continuing D.C.’s fight for every person’s right to live a healthy, self-determined life free from stigma, violence, criminalization, and oppression.” 
In addition to calling on legislators to pass the decriminalization legislation, the campaign is mobilizing D.C. residents to build a broad base of support for social and economic justice for the District’s predominantly Black and under-resourced residents who have disproportionally borne the brunt of the drug war’s harm for decades. 
D.C. communities are experiencing compounded public health emergencies – fatal overdose, COVID-19, and housing insecurity. Punitive drug laws are only worsening these crises, which continue to disproportionately impact the District’s Black and under-resourced communities. It is estimated that in 2020, D.C. experienced a 40% increase in fatal overdose deaths, marking the deadliest year in D.C.’s history. The campaign’s current legislative priority of ending arrests for personal possession of all drugs  is in solidarity with local, grassroots efforts to defund the Metropolitan Police Department and invest in communities hardest hit by racist policing and mass criminalization, as well as efforts to end stigma,  criminalization, and other forms of oppression against people who are targeted by the state for ‘crimes of poverty’ – including sex workers, people who use drugs, and people experiencing housing insecurity.
The #DecrimPovertyDC campaign launched today on the front steps of the D.C. Council. High resolution images of the event can be found here, and b-roll is available upon request.
For more information on the campaign visit Follow the campaign’s Twitter for updates @DecrimPovertyDC

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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