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How Drug Prohibition Fuels American Carnage
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In any case, policies to reduce drug consumption make sense only if their benefits exceed their costs. Since prohibition has substantial enforcement costs and itself generates externalities, prohibition is a poor choice for reducing drug consumption. If prohibition is not the right policy, then what is? Drug War Crimes argues that modifications of current prohibition, such as diminished enforcement, decriminalization, medicalization, or legalization of marijuana only, are moves in a beneficial direction, but they are inferior to a regime in which drugs are legal.
Within a legal regime, policies such as subsidized treatment, needle exchanges, public health campaigns, age restrictions, or limits on advertising might have desirable effects, but these policies also have negative consequences that can outweigh any positives.
Specifically, a small fraction of users would harm themselves and occasionally others, as occurs now for a range of legal goods. Most users, however, would obtain benefits that exceeded any costs, and the enormous externalities imposed by prohibition would disappear. Nevertheless, the arguments and data mustered for legalization are of far greater quality and objectivity than any brought to bear for prohibition. A critical question, therefore, is which side bears the burden of proof? Yet there is no reason to give prohibition the benefit of the doubt. As I have demonstrated here, a serious weighing of the evidence shows instead that prohibition has enormous costs with, at best, modest and speculative benefits.
Liberty and utility thus both recommend that prohibition end now: the goals of prohibition are questionable, the methods unsound, and the results are deadly. He offers an equally powerful explanation of the terrible human harm caused by the drug war and advances the only practical alternative to the present failed policies. Legislators and other policy-makers would benefit from his non-politicized, non-moralistic approach; everyone can benefit from reading this important, insightful work.
Duke , Professor of Law, Yale University. Surely there are more efficient and less intrusive ways of controlling the externalities of drug use. The basic facts of prohibition as practiced in early twenty-first century America only reinforce the impression that this is suboptimal policy. The vast costs associated with drug abuse currently are most visibly the consequence of prohibition rather than drug use. Drug-related crime is driven not primarily by the drugs but by the high prices and the lack of enforceable property rights in illegal markets; the HIV associated with injecting drug use is also a consequence primarily of prohibition rather than heroin use itself.
The possible gains from prohibition in terms of harms prevented, if there are any, are neither visible nor conceptually well grounded. The exposition of this slim monograph is non-technical and the goal is clearly to reach a broad audience.
In the end, Drug War Crimes will reassure. He approaches the subject with scholarly precision and treats all arguments, pro and con, with integrity and clear perception. Drug War Crimes avoids all the hyperbole of zealots willing to dispense with truth, objectivity and reason for the sake of their predetermined positions. A reasonable mind will find this book exceedingly valuable. It is a totally honest book that has been needed for a very long time.
Kane, Jr. District Court. He uses current evidence and historical precedent to support legalization by showing that prohibition only makes a slight dent in drug use. Instead, as Miron persuasively demonstrates, the net effects of prohibition, both past and present, are to increase violence, enrich criminals, threaten civil liberties, and make drug users more ill.
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The right question for policy makers, he concludes, is not whether drugs are misused but whether the benefits of prohibition outweigh its exorbitant costs. All in all, this is a solidly researched and dispassionate discussion of a topic that is too often couched in moral and emotional terms. I found his analysis particularly insightful for its elucidation of various interacting dynamics of supply and demand in illegal drug markets, which usually escape consideration.
Miron focuses on these dynamics to refute the common assumption that prohibition drives prices to stratospheric levels, and also uses them to demonstrate convincingly that the effects of prohibition on rates of drug consumption are negligible. One-third of those were marijuana arrests, most for mere possession. The best evidence of prohibition's failure is the government's current war on drugs. This war, instead of employing a strategy of prevention, research, education and social programs designed to address problems such as permanent poverty, long term unemployment and deteriorating living conditions in our inner cities, has employed a strategy of law enforcement.
While this military approach continues to devour billions of tax dollars and sends tens of thousands of people to prison, illegal drug trafficking thrives, violence escalates and drug abuse continues to debilitate lives. Compounding these problems is the largely unchecked spread of the AIDS virus among drug-users, their sexual partners and their offspring. Indeed, the criminal drug laws protect drug traffickers from taxation, regulation and quality control.
Those laws also support artificially high prices and assure that commercial disputes among drug dealers and their customers will be settled not in courts of law, but with automatic weapons in the streets.
On Drugs and Democracy
Drug prohibition promises a healthier society by denying people the opportunity to become drug users and, possibly, addicts. The reality of prohibition belies that promise. No quality control. When drugs are illegal, the government cannot enact standards of quality, purity or potency.
Consequently, street drugs are often contaminated or extremely potent, causing disease and sometimes death to those who use them. Dirty needles. Unsterilized needles are known to transmit HIV among intravenous drug users. Yet drug users share needles because laws prohibiting possession of drug paraphernalia have made needles a scarce commodity. These laws, then, actually promote epidemic disease and death. By contrast, the figure is less than one percent in Liverpool, England, where clean needles are easily available.
Scarce treatment resources.
The allocation of vast sums of money to law enforcement diminishes the funds available for drug education, preventive social programs and treatment. As crack use rose during the late s, millions of dollars were spent on street-level drug enforcement and on jailing tens of thousands of low level offenders, while only a handful of public drug treatment slots were created. An especially needy group -- low-income pregnant women who abused crack -- often had no place to go at all because Medicaid would not reimburse providers.
Instead, the government prosecuted and jailed such women without regard to the negative consequences for their children. Drug prohibition has not only failed to curb or reduce the harmful effects of drug use, it has created other serious social problems. Caught in the crossfire. In the same way that alcohol prohibition fueled violent gangsterism in the s, today's drug prohibition has spawned a culture of drive-by shootings and other gun-related crimes. And just as most of the s violence was not committed by people who were drunk, most of the drug-related violence today is not committed by people who are high on drugs.
The killings, then and now, are based on rivalries: Al Capone ordered the executions of rival bootleggers, and drug dealers kill their rivals today. A government study of all "cocaine-related" homicides in New York City found that 87 percent grew out of rivalries and disagreements related to doing business in an illegal market. In only one case was the perpetrator actually under the influence of cocaine. A Nation of Jailers. The "lock 'em up" mentality of the war on drugs has burdened our criminal justice system to the breaking point.
Today, drug-law enforcement consumes more than half of all police resources nationwide, resources that could be better spent fighting violent crimes like rape, assault and robbery. The recent steep climb in our incarceration rate has made the U. Nonviolent drug offenders make up 58 percent of the federal prison population, a population that is extremely costly to maintain. While drug imprisonments are a leading cause of rising local tax burdens, they have neither stopped the sale and use of drugs nor enhanced public safety.
We now have what some constitutional scholars call "the drug exception to the Bill of Rights. Inner city communities suffer most from both the problem of drug abuse and the consequences of drug prohibition. Although the rates of drug use among white and non-white Americans are similar, African Americans and other racial minorities are arrested and imprisoned at higher rates.
Related Drug War Crimes: The Consequences of Prohibition
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