Maine needs compassionate drug policies.

We have allowed unjust and discriminatory drug policies to harm people for generations. We must remove criminal penalties for low-level drug use and possession and adopt a public health approach to substance use disorder.

This in turn would help people who use drugs — and their families — obtain and keep housing, employment, health care and other services necessary for them to thrive.

I have had a relative die from an overdose because he suffered with substance use disorder and did not receive adequate treatment. Treatment, not jail, is the path to getting better. We need to lead with love and understanding, as well as dignity and respect.

I heard a state representative say last year that just because we lost the war on drugs, we can’t give up. I am not asking anyone to give up. Far from it. Incarceration, in most cases, is giving up on people. Let’s try fighting for people.

Fortunately we have a measure that would address this issue, “An Act to Implement a Statewide Public Health Response to Substance Use and Amend the Laws Governing Scheduled Drugs” (LD 1975), sponsored by Rep. Lydia Crafts.

This bill decriminalizes possession of small amounts of certain substances, and uses the savings we would realize by not arresting and incarcerating people for possession to fund more treatment options.

Our legislature have to know we support this measure as it makes its way through the process.

Jim Lysen, Lewiston

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