TOPIC :: Illegal drugs

New Approach to Political Deliberation Finds 
Surprising Common Ground on Drug Policy

By Jonathan Denn founder of VirtualCommittees™,

Karen Suhaka founder BillTrack50,

David Kellogg former publisher Council of Foreign Relations.

[Previous iteration of VirtualCommittees™ and WonkWave™]

A novel experiment may hold the key to helping groups of ideologically diverse individuals reach agreement on intractable public policy issues.

The 13-week experiment convened 15 men and women representing a full range of political views to answer the question... 

“How might we decide if the illegal drug problem is a criminal and/or health issue?”


With deliberations conducted completely via email, the jurors first decided on the public policy they wanted to put on trial. They then proposed — and voted on — the broad “instigating question.” 

They next were asked to pose “clarifying questions” that would inform the discussion. They then researched the questions and shared the answers with the other jurors, voting on the importance, relevance, and credibility of each. 

Questions focused on current best practices in treatment, relapse rates, relationships between drug use and crime, current trends in incarceration, and much more.

The participants then proposed solutions based on what they learned from their research, and these were voted on to create a final ballot. They then voted on the ballot.


The ideologically balanced jury issued the following verdicts in descending order of agreement:

Unanimous Decision

1. Decrease chronic user demand in order to diminish the black market for drugs. Put health and community safety first by fundamentally reorienting policy priorities and resources from punitive enforcement to proven health and social interventions.


2. Push drug treatment providers towards the use of evidence-based treatment and management approaches.


3. If all best practices to help chronic users/abusers fail, then low-dose opioids should be prescribed like insulin is to diabetics to reduce crime, keep users close to medical care, and keep the demand out of the black market.

85%+ Nearly Unanimous

4. Let States experiment with and set drug policies themselves in a search for best outcomes and practices. 

5. Parole those currently in prison for non-violent and non-trafficking related drug crimes. Fund training and transitional jobs for released prisoners (to keep them from falling back into bad habits) and the correctional officers who will lose their jobs.


6. Fund new research into therapies. 

75%+ Vast Supermajority Support

7. Encourage “spontaneous remission” to combat the mythology that denies the possibility of recovery without expensive professional help.


8. Stop punishing former small–time dealers and recovering drug addicts and allow them to apply for jobs after they have paid their debt to society without the stigma of revealing their convictions and incarcerations. This will help prevent them from falling back into the black market to make a living. 

66%+ Supermajority Support

9. Police should be permitted to focus on their primary mission to protect public safety and order, not trying to suppress the use of drugs by constricting supply.