Drug Policy Bill Passes House

Washington, D.C. – The House today approved a bill to reauthorize the Office of National Drug Control Policy and included several provisions authored by Rep. Adam Schiff.

The first provision authorizes a program aimed at shutting down drug markets by developing strategic local plans to fight illicit drug use.  “Our National Drug Control Strategy must encourage innovative approaches to curbing drug use,” said Schiff.  “Treatment is important, but it is far better to get to the root of the problem and stop the demand for illicit drugs in our communities.”

Such an approach was proven successful in High Point, NC.  After identifying the drug market and its small group of active dealers, law enforcement monitored drug activity and probation/parole violations.  Non-violent offenders were given a choice between facing immediate legal action or ceasing dealing and receiving rehabilitative services.  Consequently, the drug market promptly collapsed with minimal police intervention or crime displacement.  Within one year of implementation, the drug crime rate of High Point fell by 34% and the violent crime rate was cut in half.  Schiff’s amendment would encourage similar efforts around the country.

Schiff’s other provision calls for frequent, mandatory drug testing for chronic offenders with strong penalties for violations, called “coerced abstinence.”  For example, a system where a participant is tested every 72 hours and a dirty test led to an immediate, unpleasant sanction – for example 8 hours in a jury box or 24 hours in jail.  Participants are simultaneously offered incentives such as drug treatment or other rehabilitative services.  This approach is currently finding great success in Honolulu, Hawaii, where previous drug tests turned up 21.9% positive drug tests and 10% missed appointments altogether.  With this program in place, the positive drug tests dropped to 3.8% and the missed appointment rate dropped to 1.3%.

Approximately 80 percent of the nation’s cocaine is consumed by approximately four million chronic users.  Three-quarters of these users are under currently the supervision of the criminal justice system.
“When it turns out that drug users are already in the criminal justice system, we must take a bold new approach that involves constant testing and immediate sanctions for continued drug use,” said Schiff.  “This program is a terrific first step, and I am pleased this measure passed the House today.”

The bill, H.R. 2829, the Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 2005, passed the House Judiciary Committee last week and passed the House today by a 399-5 vote.  It now faces action in the U.S. Senate.

Congressman Schiff is the Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on the Judicial Branch and a member of the House Judiciary Committee.  He is also a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles.  He represents California’s 29th Congressional District, which includes the communities of Alhambra, Altadena, Burbank, East Pasadena, East San Gabriel, Glendale, Monterey Park, Pasadena, San Gabriel, South Pasadena and Temple City.