Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Vices, Times, and Places

Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Vices, Times, and Places

Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Vices, Times, and Places

Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Vices, Times, and Places

Synopsis

This meticulously researched study represents the first effort to provide a nonpartisan and objective analysis of how the United States should approach the drug legalization question. It surveys what is known about the effects of different drug policies in Western Europe and what happened when cocaine and heroin were legal in the US a century ago. The book shows that legalization involves different tradeoffs between health and crime and the interests of the inner city minority communities and the middle class. The book explains why it is so difficult to accomplish substantial reform of drug policy.

Excerpt

Americans have long recognized that psychoactive drugs can create serious hazards for users and others. Yet some see the nation's principal drug problem not as the drugs themselves but rather prohibition and its enforcement. America's highly punitive version of prohibition is intrusive, divisive, and expensive and leaves the United States with a drug problem that is worse than that of any other wealthy nation. Notwithstanding a very substantial investment of resources and of public authority and rhetoric in drug control, there is little sign of major remission in America's drug problems.

It is not surprising then that some advocate a repeal of the prohibition of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. Legalization has been a politically weak but intellectually powerful influence in American life for the last decade. Its criticism of the current regime has a great deal of truth in it. The most conspicuous harms of drugs currently are those caused by prohibition, namely crime, disorder, corruption, and the diseases related to injecting with dirty needles. From that critique, the legalizers conclude that elimination of prohibition is essential. They assert that legalization would reduce disease, crime, and human suffering.

Arrayed against them, but with a curiously weak representation in the academic and intellectual community, are all the forces of political power. Few basic American policy doctrines are more fervently and frequently affirmed by the President and major politicians of . . .

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