Prohibition's Second Failure: The Quest for a Rational and Humane Drug Policy

By Theodore R. Vallance | Go to book overview

As in other European countries, there is discussion of the prospect of fully legalizing some of the now proscribed drugs. However, there appears to be a trend in Italian drug law toward further depenalizing and liberalizing the consumption of soft drugs, a trend that has undercut demands for outright legalization.


CONCLUSION

The group of scholars and professionals convened by the Max Planck Institute to review and analyze drug policies in Western Europe tend to agree that the repression-criminalization orientation to drugs produces many of the same problems we see in the United States--high costs, risks to civil liberties, corruption of police, needless marginalizing of people for minor user offenses--and offers little hope of producing anything approximating a society free of drugs. Even the chief law enforcement officer in the city of Utrecht, The Netherlands, asserts that the repressive strategy has failed, and calls for policies that would emphasize other goals, such as integrating drugs into social life as we try to do with alcohol and nicotine, educating people about drugs, and managing abuse rather than trying to stamp it out via the criminal justice system. 42 These scholars also see little hope of major reform in drug policies toward greater liberalization in view of the widespread fear of drugs that has taken root in all of their countries.


SOME TRAPS

Before leaving this introductory chapter I want to present a view held by a small but growing number of scholars of the drug problem, a view with which I am in agreement. A major part of the problem is a combination of semantics and the American culture. It is part of our tradition to reify problems, to think of them as "things" to be attacked, warred upon, expunged, exterminated, or otherwise gotten rid of. We do not think of problems as processes to be understood and gradually transformed; that is altogether too complicated and unthrilling. Fighting wars, real wars against real and threatening countries, mobilizes energy in ways that mere solving of problems simply cannot, for the simple reason that such wars indeed threaten our persons, families, and institutions. Calling a program designed to relieve poverty or a particular illness a "war" is essentially a propagandistic device to justify whatever the program leaders think should be done. Before long the complexity of the problem and the futility of some of the actions taken in the name of removing "it" become apparent--

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Prohibition's Second Failure: The Quest for a Rational and Humane Drug Policy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Preface ix
  • Chapter 1 Defining Today's Drug Problem in the United States 1
  • Conclusion 25
  • Chapter 2 Documenting the Costs of the Drug Problem 27
  • Summary 46
  • Chapter 3 How Effective and How Good a Bargain is Current Policy? 47
  • Summary 62
  • Chapter 4 Policy Options Within the Criminalization Context 63
  • Summary 77
  • Chapter 5 What Choices Do We Have? 81
  • Summary and Conclusion 99
  • Chapter 6 Toward a New Policy 101
  • Chapter 7 Getting There from Here 123
  • Appendix A Federal Drug Laws 135
  • Appendix B Reform-Oriented Organizations 141
  • Appendix C Studies by Special Committees, Councils, and Commissions 144
  • Notes 153
  • Sources 159
  • Index 169
  • About the Author 175
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