A Drug War on Chronic Users' Behavior

Exhaust Best Practices Before Long Incarcerations

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primary topic: Drug Policy
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This is from an article in the Wall Street Journal 4/22/12 entitled Rethinking the War on Drugs. It concludes, "The U.S. has reached a dead end in trying to fight drug use by treating every offender as a serious criminal. Blanket drug legalization has some superficial charm—it fits nicely into a sound-bite or tweet—but it can't stand up to serious analysis. The real prospects for reform involve policies rather than slogans. It remains to be seen whether our political process—and the media circus that often shapes it—can tolerate the necessary complexity."

I had long been a supporter of Decriminalization of Personal Drug Use, in fact, I posted it as a bill here. It was highly rated but then after reading this article, changed my mind, withdrew it, and replaced it wth what I now believe to be the GREATER approach.

The article continues, "Legalizing possession and production would eliminate many of the problems related to drug dealing, but it would certainly worsen the problem of drug abuse. We could abolish the illicit market in cocaine, as we abolished the illicit market in alcohol, but does anyone consider our current alcohol policies a success? In the U.S., alcohol kills more people than all of the illicit drugs combined (85,000 deaths versus 17,000 in 2000, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association). Alcohol also has far more addicted users.

Any form of legal availability that could actually displace the illicit markets in cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine would make those drugs far cheaper and more available. If these "hard" drugs were sold on more or less the same terms as alcohol, there is every reason to think that free enterprise would work its magic of expanding the customer base, and specifically the number of problem users, producing an alcohol-like toll in disease, accident and crime."

There were a number of programs mentioned in this article that include, significantly increasing the tax per alcohol drink, to frequent mandatory and random drug and alcohol testing for repeat offenders with brief incarcerations for failures.

The end result is heavy users changed their behavior with much less time endured behind bars, with much less cost, overall, to society. But, in a culure that values "easy" answers this requires that we care enough to implement a more difficult (yet cheaper) solution.

The article was co-written by Dr. Kleiman, professor of public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Dr. Caulkins, Stever Professor of Operations Research and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. And Dr. Hawken, associate professor of public policy at Pepperdine University. They are co-authors of "Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know."

You can read the whole article here.

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