Welcome! This page supports the work of the Drug Policy Reform task force of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP). ACSWP is the body designated to propose new directions for the church’s witness and ministry in our “drug-abundant” US society.
The Drug Policy Task Force encourages Presbyterians to engage in thoughtful exercises to better understand our current drug policies and imagine alternatives. Another resource for this—in addition to the survey—is a drug policy exercise.
Help yourselves! The resources posted here come from several sources and they are here to be downloaded and used for discussion in your congregations, college and university groups, and seminary training programs:
- The current study and hearing process of the Drug Policy Reform study team, which will report to the General Assembly in 2016. Their mandate includes encouraging education and discussion across the church.
- Links to articles in the April-May issue of the online journal, Unbound, which focuses on drug issues.
- Past policy statements on addictive substances made by the General Assembly.
- The Presbyterian Addiction Awareness Network of the Presbyterian Health Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA). That Network of counselors, persons in recovery, and others (since 2010 on hiatus) helped guide the church in addressing drug as well as alcohol challenges. These materials are sometimes dated but still contain much good pastoral and educational guidance.
- Booklets from the Health Ministries office which assisted ministries with all forms of substance abuse as well as church efforts to improve the delivery and availability of social services in this area.
- Past policy statements on concerns of the criminal justice system which impact such things as sentencing reform, police accountability, racial disparities in prosecution, and for-profit prisons.
Background: In 2014, the General Assembly chose to address the major changes occurring in our drug-abundant society: legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, massive incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders and their continuing penalization, militarization of drug control efforts in other countries, the misuse of prescription drugs, and the need for greater support for rehabilitation and recovery from addiction. The overture brought by five presbyteries was wide-ranging in seeking to address the perceived failures of the “war on drugs,” and to help the church develop theological and programmatic resources for a more restorative and science-based approach.
Let us hear from you: As you read these materials, you may wonder about the differences between drug “abuse” and appropriate use and how these relate to the wholeness of the person that was the goal of Jesus healing ministries. What are the rights of individuals to ingest whatever substances they wish, absent harm to others? What is the church’s responsibility to help protect particularly children from harm and exploitation? A special survey has been posted to stimulate thinking and—without claiming statistical objectivity—to gather opinion and help discussion. You may also wish to write the Advisory Committee for Social Witness Policy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Papers and Studies
- “War on Drugs: Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy,” June 2011
- American Civil Liberties Union—“The War on Marijuana in Black and White,” 2013
- Meso American Working Group, “Rethinking the Drug War in Central America and Mexico,” November 2013
Video and Film
- “The House I Live In,” feature-length documentary film on the drug war, 2012.
- “Bringing Down the New Jim Crow,” radio documentary series, five powerful audio segments.
- Gabrielle Glaser, “The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous,” The Atlantic, April 2015.
- Addiction and Grace, Gerald G. May, Harper One, 1988
- Chasing the Scream, Johann Hari, Bloomsbury Circus, 2015
- Dealing Death and Drugs, Beto O’Rourke and Susie Byrd, Cinco Puntos Press, 2011
- Drug Crazy: How We Got Into This Mess and How We Can Get Out, Mike Gray, Routledge, 2000
- Drug War Zone: Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Howard Campbell, University of Texas, 2009
- The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander, The New Press, 2011
- Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow, Daniel Hunter, Veterans of Hope Project, 2015
- To Die in Mexico, John Gibler, City Lights, 2011
- Victims & Sinners, Linda Mercadante, Westminster John Knox Press, 1996
Presbyterian Mission Agency Resources