Vacate Drug Convictions

Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins recently announced the plan to vacate potentially tens of thousands of drug convictions in response to the Hinton State Laboratory scandal. Libertarians  should applaud that move and push for other District Attorneys and the state to follow suite.

The Scandal, which started with an employee of the Massachusetts State's drug lab being caught falsifying evidence and that later expanded to another Massachusetts drug lab, has exposed systematic mismanagement and criminal negligence in the State's drug labs. In the views of many this can only be summarized as corruption - including the handling of the investigation itself. It has cast serious doubt on the trustworthiness of a drug-law enforcement system that affects tens of thousands of people in the Massachusetts.

Vacating drug convictions that involve evidence from a corrupt state lab however can only be a first step to address these issues. The lab scandal is just one example of many to show that the war on drugs is fraught with abuse and has lead to unjust incarceration, violence, and suffering. It has been used as a pretext for the militarization of police, including sometimes criminally irresponsible police tactics. It has pitted police against citizens in a way that is unfair to both. The War against Drugs has also been used to progressively undermine our basic freedoms including freedom of enterprise. It has also been utterly ineffective at achieving its supposed goal of combating drug use and has instead empowered dangerous criminal gangs.

It is time for Massachusetts to end its war on drugs and vacate all convictions for drug-related offenses that don't involve other, real crimes with actual victims. Further, Massachusetts should repeal all laws creating 'crimes' without victims, especially the use of drugs for medicinal or recreational purposes. We need to end the government's attempts to control what people put in their bodies and fully decriminalize drug use (without prohibitive taxation). Instead of persecuting people for what they do with their own bodies, police should focus on protecting the American public from violent offenders and fraud.

To learn more about a pro-liberty approach to drug policy, see the position of the Libertarian Party at the national level.