In War on Drugs, Time to Just Say, 'What Now?'

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Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Jon Frohnmayer, Adam Schulz and Jennifer Reynolds

The United States has been fighting the War on Drugs for more than four decades. Most Americans now recognize that we need a serious, thorough re-evaluation of drug policy.

The numbers tell the story:

Since 1973, the United States has spent $1 trillion on enforcement measures - yet drug use has not declined.

Approximately 500,000 people in the United States are in prison for charges related to drug possession alone, and this population consists disproportionately of minorities.

More than 60,000 people have been murdered in Mexico in the past seven years as a result of drug cartel violence fueled by U.S. demand for drugs.

While we fight this costly war, other countries - including the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland - have experimented with alternative regimes, including marijuana decriminalization and even legal heroin prescription. Notably, those countries have not experienced increased drug use or social chaos from these policies, thus throwing into question our traditional justifications for prohibiting drugs.

So when it comes to drug policy in the United States, it is no longer a question of whether we change but how and when we change. To address this question, the editors of the Oregon Law Review at the University of Oregon School of Law have spent the last nine months bringing together a panel of experts from around the country to discuss the past and future of drug policy.

The symposium, "A Step Forward: Creating a Just Drug Policy for the United States," will provide an opportunity for debate and discussion about these difficult and controversial issues.

The law school is the perfect place for this conversation, considering that the legal and political landscapes are shifting at this very moment.

By significant majorities, voters in Colorado and Washington voted in November to legalize marijuana. An anxiously awaited decision by the Obama administration will determine how the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives federal laws precedence over state laws, and international treaties prohibiting marijuana use will affect citizens of these states and others that may follow their lead - either through popular initiative or legislative action. …