Facing Race: A National Conference in St. Louis, MO — November 20-22, 2024

Natalie Flath

Graduate Student | University of Maryland School of Social Work
Pronouns: she/her/hers

Presentations from Facing Race 2022

Community costs of drug criminalization and alternative framings of drug policy solutions

Decriminalization of small quantities of psychoactive substances for personal use, referred to as “decrim,” is one mode of modern reform. Public health scholarship endorses the uptake of decrim practices as a vehicle for reducing the harms associated with drug use, however, a Euro-centric model of drug criminalization alone risks reproducing racial inequality in the U.S., given the inherent anti-Black systems of criminal legal control already in place. Understanding the role of drug criminalization on disrupting the social fabric of communities is essential to the development of new visions of drug policies and understanding how new policies may ameliorate or exacerbate racial oppression.

The first aspect of the session will be a discussion between the presenters on how systems of drug criminalization influence aspects of community well-being and community-driven drug treatment supports. Experiences of community-owned treatment and healing supports will be presented to think through the investment strategies embedded within structural arrangements of drug systems and policies.

In the second half of the session, an advocacy practitioner will discuss what these findings mean to contemporary drug policy solutions and present a case study of cannabis legalization in Maryland demonstrating how linking legalization to community reinvestment was critical to gaining support for recent legislation.

As the country progresses with drug policy developments, we hope the research and policy work in Maryland will help to shape drug decriminalization dialogue and future decriminalization campaigns that undergirds critical race consciousness for reparations of the War on Drugs.

Speakers: Lawrence Grandpre, Natalie Flath, Judith Park