It took too long and didn’t go far enough, but New York State lawmakers have at last taken the crucial first step in reforming the harshest drug laws in the country (“Hard-won reforms,” News, Dec. 8). I applaud these reforms, but I am concerned that billions of dollars and thousands of wasted lives later, lawmakers are still not addressing the urgent need for treatment.
Treatment has been proven to be a less expensive and more effective tool than law enforcement in reducing drug usage. It’s a disgrace that it took more than a decade to reform laws that failed so miserably in their original goal to deter drug use. Let’s not squander another 10 years of scarce resources by neglecting to treat the thousands of drug abusers who need help, but who now the prison system cannot claim.
Editor’s note: The writer is president of Odyssey House, a non-profit substance abuse and mental health treatment, medical and housing services agency.