Drug Addiction Crime or Disease?
Interim and Final Reports of the Joint Committee of the American Bar Association and the American Medical Association on Narcotic Drugs.
For the last half-century public authorities in the United States have been wrestling with the problem of controlling addiction to narcotic drugs. Since the twenties, legislation and enforcement policies have aimed at total repression, with criminal sanctions of notable severity attaching to every transaction connected with the non-medical use of drugs. Drug-law enforcement has become a major police activity of federal, state and local governments; the threat of long imprisonment, even of death penalties, ...view middle of the document...
We wish particularly to express our appreciation to Dr. Donald Young and Dr.
Leonard S. Cottrell, Jr., of the Foundation, who have followed the Joint Committee's work closely, contributing invaluably from their broad wisdom and experience in the field of social science research.
The medical profession in this country was widely concerned about the use and abuse of opiate preparations at least as long ago as the Civil War era. The American Medical Association supported the enactment of regulatory legislation before the Harrison Act (1914) became law, and its House of Delegates gave active consideration to the development of the federal regulatory pattern in the formulative period 1919-23. A Special Committee on the Narcotic Drug Situation in the United States, appointed pursuant to a resolution of the A. M. A. House of Delegates in June, 1919, studied the situation and submitted an edifying report the following year. A standing Committee on Narcotic Drugs, of the A. M. A. Council on Health and Public Instruction, served actively thereafter. But except for expressing its position on various matters of administrative detail, the A. M. A. has taken no formal position with regard to the operation of the country's narcotics laws since the adoption, in June, 1924, of a resolution on so-called ambulatory treatment proposed by its Committee on Narcotic Drugs.
In 1954, interest was reawakened by the submission of a proposal from the New York State Medical Society for the legalization of the distribution of narcotics to addicts. The proposal was referred by the A. M. A. House of Delegates to its Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry and Council on Mental Health, and in April, 1955, the latter body appointed a special Committee on Narcotic Addiction, charged with the responsibility of making a thorough study of the matter. Dr. Felix, an A. M. A. member of the Joint Committee, served as chairman of the special committee, which has recently completed its work with a report concluding that the advisability of free distribution cannot be settled on the basis of objective facts at hand, recommending further study and research, and suggesting that the 1924 resolution of the House of Delegates should be revised.
The American Bar Association first concerned itself with narcotic drug laws when its Commission on Organized Crime considered (and disapproved) the mandatory minimum sentences and minimum penalties provided in the first Boggs Act, endorsed by the Kefauver Committee, which became law in '952. As a result of interest developed in its consideration of these provisions, the A. B. A.'s Section of Criminal Law created a standing Committee on Narcotics and Alcohol. The latter committee, after a survey of federal and state legislation on the subject, proposed a three-part resolution which was passed by the A. B. A. House of Delegates in February, 1955: "Resolved, That the Section of Criminal Law, through its Chairman or other such appropriate...