American Medical Association Officially Endorses Drug Decriminalization

Members of the American Medical Association (AMA) have voted overwhelmingly in favor of endorsing the decriminalization of drug possession.

At their annual meeting yesterday in Chicago, the AMA voted 345 to 171 to adopt a new policy calling for the “elimination of criminal penalties for drug possession for personal use as part of a larger set of related public health and legal reforms designed to improve carefully selected outcomes.” This marks the first time the group has ever supported drug decriminalization.

Ryan Englander, an MD/PhD candidate who is a delegate from Hartford, Connecticut, said “The war on drugs is quite reminiscent of the phrase, ‘The beatings will continue until morale improves. We have tried for decades to criminalize our way out of a substance use crisis in this country, and it has not worked.”

Englander says “We need to move to something different and better, something that actually works.”

Stephen Taylor, MD, MPH, of Atlanta, Georgia, who spoke for the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), said “there is, in fact, evidence that decriminalization can have public health benefits if it is done correctly. We would suggest that we have yet to see it done correctly” in the U.S.

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