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Lt. governor candidate seeks to clarify statements on decriminalizing drugs

Leland Cheung

JOSH REYNOLDS FOR THE BOSTON GLOBE, FILE

Leland Cheung

A candidate for lieutenant governor said today that he does not support the legalization of cocaine and heroin, clarifying statements in which he cited public health and social justice concerns in an unusual argument for Massachusetts to treat hard drugs more like marijuana.

However, Cheung said, he believes “that it is our moral imperative to reform our Commonwealth’s criminal justice system.”

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“As Lieutenant Governor, I will call for further reforms to sentencing requirements for non-violent drug offenders to dismantle the prison pipeline while getting addicts the help they need,” he added in a statement.

In a Thursday “Ask Me Anything” session on the online discussion board Reddit, Leland Cheung, a Cambridge City Council member and Democratic hopeful to become the next governor’s chief backup, had outlined some thoughts on drug enforcement.

“I’d support a bill to decriminalize those drugs IF it also came along with education and treatment plans to solve the root of the problem— addiction that devastates lives and often leads to incarceration, further devastating a person’s life,” Cheung wrote. “Simply treating addicts as criminals has not worked and it’s time for a different approach.”

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“Decriminalization” generally refers to the reduction — not the elimination — of penalties for drug possession.

Cheung’s statement came in response to a specific question about whether he would back a move to legalize “recreational drug use of harder drugs like heroin or cocaine.”

Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com.
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