Drug decriminalization: From punitive policies to effective solutions

Open Society Foundations


Drug decriminalization: From punitive policies to effective solutions

12 July 2023
Open Society Foundations (OSF)

Across the United States, state legislatures are considering a return to ineffective, punitive drug policies, a perpetuation of Richard Nixon’s 52-year-old War on Drugs.

In New Jersey, where officials have spent one billion dollars fighting the failed drug war, lawmakers have introduced legislation to enhance penalties around fentanyl, though the harsh policies already in place have not proven successful in addressing the worsening overdose crisis.

Maryland legislators have chosen to keep drug paraphernalia criminalized, despite evidence that illegality creates barriers to safer use practices and perpetuates numerous drug-related harms.

In Maine, policymakers are attempting to roll back protections offered by their state’s Good Samaritan Law, which offers lifesaving legal immunity to those who call for help and those present at the scene of an overdose.

Open Society is working with our partners to bring awareness to the damages perpetuated by the failed policies of the War on Drugs. In this discussion, policy experts explore the benefits of diverting resources from penalties for people who use drugs toward investing them in harm reduction services that are proven to directly benefit the communities they serve.


Lawrence Grandpre


Lawrence Grandpre is director of Research for Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle

Meagan Sway


Meagan Sway is policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.

Marleina Ubel


Marleina Ubel is a policy analyst and state policy fellow at New Jersey Policy Perspective.

Kasia Malinowska


Kasia Malinowska is director of Drugs Policy at the Open Society Foundations.

Start26 June 2023
End26 June 2023

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