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ABA President Elect Supports Decriminalizing Drugs


July 1994

President-elect of the American Bar Association, George Bushnell, favors decriminalization of all drugs, from marijuana to crack cocaine. (Leslie Phillips, "Next ABA boss: Legalize drugs - Says it's a way to reduce crime," USA Today, 6/28/94, p. A2). Bushnell says that he has held this view for more than 30 years. He says his views are personal, and he does not plan to persuade the ABA, which has no position, to adopt one. Bushnell is a trial lawyer in Detroit, and takes office in August.

"Many thoughtful people are looking at decriminalization as a way of dealing with the violence that's associated with the prohibition against certain drugs," says ABA's Criminal Justice section chairman Randolph Stone. "I don't think people will be shocked or surprised [by Bushnell's views]. ... I think there are many members who have that view."

Both the ABA and Bushnell are critical of the Congressional Crime Bill. Bushnell says that pieces of the bill are a "step forward", however, other parts are "inappropriate."

The ABA supports the assault weapons ban, drug treatment for prisoners, and grants to states for prevention and education programs for youth. However, the three strikes and you're out provision -- which mandates life in prison after a third violent felony conviction -- is a "glitzy political response to the fear that grips our country," he says.

Bushnell calls the community policing program which will put 100,000 more cops on the street a "phony and a fraud." And he says building more prisons for violent criminals is a "rathole for money." "We are not looking at what causes crime," Bushnell says. Rather, the bill "has become a political engine for both federal and state legislative candidates and in every state with a gubernatorial election."

[If you would like to write to Mr. Bushnell, he can be reached as follows: Mr. George Bushnell, Suite 2500, 150 West Jefferson St., Detroit, MI 48226]