Would marijuana reform help Broome County’s opioid overdose problem?

District Attorney John Creuzot

Would marijuana reform help Broome County’s opioid overdose problem?

One D.A. in Texas is joining hundreds of other D.A.’s in the United States in easing or erasing marijuana laws and convictions in their counties. Would this type of reform help Broome County overcome their opioid overdose issue, as it has for other areas of the United States?
On April 11, 2019, Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot released a set of policies that will drastically reform the criminal justice system in his county. Dallas County Jail books a staggering 67,000 per year, and Creuzot ran in the 2018 District Attorney elections on a platform of reducing this number by one fifth. Cruezot’s policies put his bold campaign promises into action and prove the immense capacity of a District Attorney to steer the criminal justice system in the direction of reform.
In a five-page public letter, Creuzot outlines his office’s new policies, which include refusing to prosecute certain drug cases, reforming probation, and changing the handling of crimes related to poverty and homelessness. Additionally, Creuzot has already dismissed more than 1,000 marijuana possession cases and employs diversion for possession cases after a first offense. Additionally, the public letter outlines policies that aim to reduce the county’s reliance on cash bail. As Creuzot says, “our system of justice cannot depend on whether individuals can afford to buy their freedom.”

But bold leadership isn’t showing up all over Texas. In Harris County, District Attorney Kim Ogg ran on a platform of reform much like Creuzot, campaigning on bail reform proposals and diversion for low-level drug offenses. But once in a position of influence and power, unlike Creuzot, Kim Ogg has not stepped up to bring those reform-minded positions into reality. In fact, she is working against reform in Harris County by requesting 100 more prosecutors earlier this year--giving more power to the very players already driving the high rates of incarceration in the country.
Broome County has suffered a recent rash of fentanyl deaths within the past couple of months, and we have yet to see laws on marijuana relaxed in New York State and Broome County. It has been proven in other states, that decriminalizing marijuana definitely lowers opioid use, overdoses, and deaths very quickly, and our county and D.A.’s office might benefit from considering the same in a county and city that is near the top of the list of most dangerous cities in New York State, to live.
Binghamton and Broome County are actually an excellent place to live and raise a family, and it is unfortunate that drug problems and overly restrictive laws are affecting the public opinion of our area, and placing us on such negative and disassociative lists, wrongly reflecting on the reality of this area, which is truly a great place to live!

*Co-Authorship: Courtesy of Justice Volunteers and the The B. C. Chronicle

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