"Radley Balko and I disagree about the basic logic of drug policy.fwiw - i instinctively lean toward balko's position - although i'm only guessing because i'm not familar with the research. Kleiman is probably correct that it would lead to vastly expanded use
He'd prefer a world in drug consumption was fundamentally unregulated except for ordinary rules about product labeling and perhaps special rules about intoxicated activities, such as driving under the influence. I think the result of that policy would be vastly expanded drug abuse.
Radley, as a libertarian, thinks that if people choose to damage themselves, that's a problem that calls for private rather than public (i.e., voluntary rather than coercive) intervention. I disagree. We also differ on the likely extent of the increase in drug abuse from replacing the current laws with something closer to the alcohol laws; I'm confident that it would be large, and worried that it might be very large, bringing one or more of the illicit drugs (likely cocaine) to the point of being as big a social headache as alcohol is.
What Radley and I don't disagree on is that drug prohibition as now managed is hugely and unnecessarily costly, though we differ in our degree of optimism. I'm convinced that it could be made much less costly if we changed our policies about enforcement, treatment, sentencing, and the management of drug-involved offenders; Radley thinks even the residual costs would be higher than can be justified by the reduction in drug abuse.
If giving up on heavy-handed drug enforcement with lots of intrusive investigative technique, extensive use of informants, massive asset forfeitures, and quasi-military tactics risked a big increase in the drug problem, there would at least be a colorable argument for accepting the costs. (The war on the Mafia was well worth winning, and it wasn't won cleanly. Getting tougher on burglars probably means fewer burglaries.) But in fact there's no reason to think that the drug problem today is much smaller than it would be with half the drug enforcement effort, half as many dealers behind bars, and much less aggressive tactics. All we're getting from fighting the drug problem as if it were a war is headaches."
- the question then is whether that 'cost' is worth the other costs.
At a minimum, I'd argue that:
a) pot should be decriminalized (as I understand it, pot is no more dangerous (probably less) than alcohol) and
b) addicts should be able to get pure product, cheap, from governments.
c) drug sentencing laws need to be turned completely upside down.
d) the TWOT and the "war on drugs" are intrinsically entwined - for the exact opposite of the reasons that we are given.
point a) should be self evident - although there might some some quibbling about where you draw the line. pot definitely should be decriminalized, other stuff i'm less confident about. if one argument against pot is that it is a gateway drug, then i presume that is only because it introduces pot smokers to drug dealers. legalize it, and it will be no more 'gateway' than alcohol.
i) i suspect that something like 90+% of profits from a drug like, say, heroin comes from junkies. if you give it away for near-free, you remove the profit-incentive from dealing - which feeds all the way back the chain to the talibanpoint c) should be self evident. prison is bad. long prison sentences are badder.
ii) if you give heroin away for near-free to junkies, you eliminate nearly all of the associated break&entry crimes (and the subsequent court and prison costs),
iii) you take the junkies off the streets (cos they are no longer broke)
iv) and you remove eliminate much of the health damage - because people arent injecting dishwashing-powder etc into their veins -
v) and you remove 90+% of the emergency medical costs. my younger brother was a junky - he was 'officially' dead something like 4 times, and separately, spent another 6 months in intensive-ish hospital care. that's expensive.
point d) should be self evident.