Stand Up for Effective Drug Policy

I voted against a resolution to partner with DEA on marijuana eradication campaign.

February 4, 2018

We should be focusing on the opioid crisis, and particularly around creating emergency treatment, successful pathways for recovery, and harm reduction. I vote no.

Michael Chameides
February 15, 2018 statement against resolution 53.

I want to thank all of my constituents who contacted me about this issue and shared their experiences. I voted against accepting $5,000 from the Drug Enforcement Administration to locate and eradicate marijuana plants. What I heard over and over again from my constituents is that this proposal distracts from what should be the priority—the opioid crisis.

Drug Crisis Has Huge Impact on Our Community

Many of us have been directly affected by the drug crisis. In 2016, Columbia County reported 13 deaths and 29 outpatient hospital visits due to opioid overdoses. SWAT raids for drug-related crimes are an all too common occurrence. And according to Hudson Police Chief Moore, the shootings and murder that happened last summer were drug-related.

Causes and Solutions

I would urge us to center major policy decisions on best available data. (In 2014, I wrote about Dr. Carl Hart’s work to create science-based drug policy.)

From the data, we have some key findings to help guide our policy.

  • Treatment and harm reduction services are effective.
  • Mass incarceration has devastated communities.
  • Supply drives demand, remove a drug source and it’s replaced with another.

Should We Prioritize Marijuana Eradication?

Given the overwhelming opioid problem, I wonder if marijuana eradication is the best use of resources. I also imagine that any marijuana plants that we destroy will be replaced by marijuana from other sources via New York City.

Focus on Priorities

The Drug Enforcement Administration is offering $5,000 to fund marijuana plant eradication. I worry that the Federal agency’s offer is distracting us from other, more important priorities. We should be careful to evaluate projects and take care not to let the lure of grant money set our priorities.

Will $5,000 towards eradicating marijuana plants make a real difference in the drug crisis? Will this $5,000 marijuana operation end up costing us more money or prevent us from taking more effective action elsewhere?

To date, the County has implemented many programs to provide better outcomes and is currently working on more. I appreciate these efforts and wonder if this marijuana eradication resolution will help or hinder those efforts.