ABA President Favors Decriminalization of Drugs

From the Fall 1994 Drug Policy Letter, p. 26:

Last year, the American Bar Association elected George Bushnell, Jr. to be its new president. Bushnell touched off a publicity bombshell.

"I personally favor decriminalization of all drugs," Bushnell told USA Today on June 28. One reason, Bushnell added, is that "it takes the profit out of it, which in turn reduces the attractiveness of the drug activity among kids."

Bushnell said he was expressing his own opinion, since the ABA currently takes no position on drug policy reform.

Bushnell, who is 70, grew up during alcohol prohibition, which helped to make up his mind on the subject. In a Rolling Stone question-and-answer session, Bushnell recalled that Prohibition fueled black market-related crime. "Once alcohol was again legalized, that kind of crime went out the window," he said.

Did his public remarks stir up any controversy for him? No one wrote the ABA to protest, which meant two things to Bushnell: "One is that the question of the decriminalization of drugs is not as controversial as conventional wisdom would deem it to be," Bushnell said. "Second, that decriminalization is recognized as an issue that really ought to be debated."

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