By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp When it comes to the War on Drugs, Christians have a lot to learn from Muslims. That’s the conclusion I draw from the accompanying essay by Muslim activist and writer Rabia Terri Harris. Her views should be taken seriously. They might even call those of us who identify as Christian back to the most profound truths of our own faith.
On Thursday, May 21, the Illinois Senate approved a bill to remove criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession, replacing the threat of jail time, a criminal record, and a lifetime of collateral consequences with a $125 fine, similar to a ticket for a traffic offense.
By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp, Project Director of Clergy for a New Drug Policy The following letter is being distributed to all Illinois State Senators on Tuesday, May 19 in anticipation of a vote on HB 218. Please call and urge their support. The Illinois State Senate will most likely vote this week on a bill to substitute civil sanctions – a fine, much like a traffic ticket – rather than criminal penalties for possession of very low levels of cannabis. Why should this bill (HB 218) pass? Because it reflects the truth that arrests and jail are the wrong way to respond to those who use drugs. Punishment is not the answer.
By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp Last December, I travelled to Vermont to engage clergy in ending the War on Drugs. The Episcopal Bishop had generously agreed to convene a group of colleagues in his Burlington office. They listened politely and offered constructive responses as I outlined why treating drug use as a crime, rather than a health problem, is morally wrong. When I mentioned that our current drug laws mean that individuals are “marked for life” – with barriers that keep them from ever getting jobs, housing, education and, if they are poor, public assistance and food stamps – the conversation jumped to a whole new level. “I didn’t know that,” the Bishop exclaimed. “We’ve got to educate people about this.”
By Rev. Alexander E. Sharp On Monday April 20th, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez announced three major changes in the way her office responds to non-violent drug cases. Her staff will no longer prosecute most low-level marijuana offenders and will direct Class 4 non-violent controlled substance offenders into treatment. The Office also will create a street-level diversion program for juveniles modeled on the successful Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) programs modeled in Seattle and Santa Fe.