Black organizations establish coalition to refocus US drug policy

WASHINGTON: Ten national African-American professional and political associations have formed a new group seeking to revamp the way America deals with illegal drugs.

WASHINGTON: Ten national African-American professional and political associations have formed a new group seeking to revamp the way America deals with illegal drugs.

The National African-American Drug Policy Coalition (NAADPC) plans to use grassroots lobbying and political clout to convince courts and legislatures to treat drug enforcement primarily as a health issue.

The bulk of the coalition's communications will be run through member organizations. "We expect each [organization] to develop its own in-house capacity," said Arthur Burnett, a retired superior court judge who is serving as the coalition's executive director.

Dwayne Proctor, senior communication officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), said that the NAADPC "represents a pedestal association of professionals attempting to put a public health perspective" on drug policy, a philosophy supported by the foundation.

Funded by an initial $81,000 grant from the RWJF, the coalition's supporters include the National Bar Association, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. The Howard University Law School, headed by former Baltimore mayor and drug decriminalization advocate Kurt Schmoke, was the grant's recipient.

"The impetus was the statistics of the growing prison population and the great percentage of [that] population being African American," said Burnett.

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