- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2003

D.C. Superior Court Judge Jeanette J. Clark ruled Monday that the D.C. government cannot implement a voter-approved drug-treatment proposal because it would intrude on the prerogatives of the mayor and the D.C. Council. Supporters of Initiative 62, which won 78 percent voter approval in November and would have granted drug treatment instead of jail time to hard-core and violent addicts, are weighing an appeal. That means, while the judge's decision clearly spells victory, D.C. lawyers must now begin preparations for a possible protracted court battle. Do they know who and what they are up against?
Opio Lumumba Sokoni, an activist-lawyer from Howard law school who coordinated the voter initiative, has a lot of nationally known heavyweights in his corner including wealthy drug-legalization gadfly George Soros, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke and Judge Robert W. Sweet, former deputy mayor of New York (who, in the 1980s, led dozens of his fellow jurists in refusing to hear drug cases because of mandatory sentencing guidelines). Mr. Sokoni et al plan to lobby the D.C. Council, telling The Washington Post that lawmakers "can deal with funding any way they want."
Judge Clark, however, disagrees as do many of her colleagues, particularly those who rightly know that drug treatment minus criminal sanctions does not work. Implementing the initiative "would constitute an improper intrusion upon the discretion of the mayor and the council to allocate the amount of funding for drug treatment that they determine can be provided," the judge declared in her opinion.
Had Judge Clark ruled the other way, the city would have been forced to provide drug treatment for users and dealers of heroin, PCP, as well as other drugs, and those addicts already in treatment who hustle their free methadone would have gone scot-free. In fact, sanctions would have been left to health-care professionals instead of the courts. Funding such a program for an estimated 60,000 abusers would have placed an enormous burden on taxpayers for three major reasons: 1) the city has a treatment-on-demand policy; 2) addicts can chose public or private programs; and 3) the health department would have had to considerably boost its bureaucracy.
As things now stand, the 10-year-old drug court is doing the best it can granting treatment when judges see fit and incarcerating offenders who relapse. That is the law, and that is as things must be.
To be sure, D.C. policymakers, law-enforcement agencies and lawyers must be aware of who they are up against people who are determined to, state-by-state, legalize federally controlled drugs. Period.

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