Perceptions of Treatment-Based Drug Policy: A Case Study in Maryland


Author/Creator ORCID



Type of Work


Hood College Political Science and Global Studies


Hood College Departmental Honors

Citation of Original Publication


Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States


A “failure,” “incomplete,” “lacking,” “ineffective,” “crooked,” these are just some of the ways people describe the United States’ current drug policies. Many states focus on the incarceration-based model, prosecuting individuals for the simple possession of drugs, despite experts saying the current approach has failed to reduce drug use and sales in our society (Bowers and Abrahamson, 2020). In contrast, many studies suggest a treatment-based approach would yield better outcomes, reduce prison populations, and improve communities (Kilmer et. al, 2012). In this paper, I examine opinions held by elites working in the drug policy arena and compare them with opinions held by the mass public when it comes to policy in the state of Maryland. Do citizens favor treatment-based or incarceration-based approaches? Does the Not in my Backyard phenomenon shape attitudes? Relying on 12 in-depth elite interviews and an online survey of Maryland citizens, I find similarities in elite and mass opinion that indicate treatment-based approaches are perceived as viable options, however concerns remain as to how this change may affect localities and whether the issue is salient enough for changes to be implemented in the first place. The findings are relevant to research studying public opinion and drug policy in the U.S.