MA Dem.: Consider decriminalizing drugs beyond pot

An educational pamphlet and samples of naloxone, a drug used to counter the effects of opiate overdose. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

BOSTON (AP) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Juliette Kayyem said Wednesday she would be open to decriminalizing drugs beyond marijuana to help those who use them get treatment instead of filling up prisons.

“What you’re seeing in other states is getting drug offenders, whatever the drugs are, it might be cocaine, it might be crack, whatever, out of the criminal justice system by essentially decriminalizing it and getting them into drug courts,” she said.

Kayyem, one of five Democrats seeking the party’s nomination, pointed to a ballot question approved by Massachusetts voters in 2008 decriminalizing possession of up to an ounce of pot, making it a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine.

“So marijuana is a $100 fine. That seems about right given the challenges we have,” Kayyem said.

Kayyem said that if elected governor, she would focus on getting nonviolent offenders who use cocaine, crack or other drugs into drug courts or diversion programs, saying they are often doing more harm to themselves than anyone else.

Asked if she specifically supported decriminalizing cocaine, Kayyem did not expressly say. “No, those are drugs that would be allowable in drug courts” that help get people into treatment instead of serving jail time, she said.

But asked if she would consider decriminalization of other drugs besides pot, she said, “I would definitely be receptive to it.” She declined to list specific drugs.

“This is how we’re going to do it, to begin to think creatively about why we’re putting people into jail and losing entire generations of people because of bad, false sentencing,” she said.