Closing Out Punishment to Public Health Series

As we close out our series on “Punishment to Public Health,” I wanted to thank the many scholars, activists and journalists who contributed to the series. I also wanted to draw your attention to some relevant news.

You may have heard Gov. Cuomo’s State of the State speech in which he came out with a proposal for limited distribution of medical marijuana. This is clearly a situation where leaders are following constituents, given that a majority of New Yorkers support medical marijuana.  This is a decidedly public health, rather than punishment, approach to this issue.

Perhaps more remarkable was Vermont Gov. Shumlin’s State of the State speech in which he spent the entire time addressing the problem of heroin in Vermont. In a turn from the usual “lock them up and throw away the key” approach to drugs, Gov. Shumlin’s framed Vermont’s trouble with heroin as a public health problem.

Both of these gubernatorial mentions of drug policy are at least partly the result of efforts by one of our partners this year, Drug Policy Alliance.  The reframing of drug policy as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue was the focus of our last two Summits. Of course, it’s impossible to draw a straight line of causation between any single event but it does speak to the relevance of this topic series.