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Marching for Science-Based Drug Policies

Treating drug addiction as a health issue rather than a crime has a proven track record of success. (Psychonaught/Wikimedia Commons)
Treating drug addiction as a health issue rather than a crime has a proven track record of success. (Psychonaught/Wikimedia Commons)
April 19, 2017

NEW YORK - Drug policy should be based on facts, not fear. That's one of the messages scientists, academics and their allies will be taking to the nation's capital this Saturday.

Responding to the rise of "alternative facts," the National March for Science is being promoted as a call for policymakers to enact evidence-based policies in the public interest. Too often, said Julie Netherland, director of the Office of Academic Engagement at the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, drug policy is driven by fear and misinformation rather than science and facts.

"It's why we've seen things like the disastrous 'war on drugs' and a lot of punitive policies that have had absolutely no effect in their stated goals of reducing drug use," Netherland said.

Advocates fear a new emphasis on "law and order" in the Trump administration may roll back recent progress toward treating drug use as a public-health issue. As an example, Netherland noted that during his presidential campaign, Donald Trump called for a national "stop-and-frisk" program.

"So, there are a lot of concerning signs that they are going to head in the wrong direction," she said, "just at a time where we're making real gains to have a drug policy that was more based in research and science."

New York City's "stop-and-frisk" program targeted mostly young black and Latino men and arrested thousands for nonviolent drug offenses.

Rather than law enforcement, Netherland said she believes the United States should embrace what she called "a harm-reduction approach" to drugs, including safer-injection facilities where addicts have a clean environment with access to treatment.

"Those are interventions that have been used in Canada and Europe," she said, "and have shown to reduce overdose deaths, to reduce the transmission of blood-borne diseases, and have a host of really positive outcomes."

On Saturday, about 50 drug-policy scholars and allies from New York will join with dozens more from across the country in Washington, D.C., to march for science.

More information is online at

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY