I want a new drug

Actually, I don’t.  I’m pretty fine getting by with just caffeine and the occasional aspirin and ibuprofen.  That said, I really enjoyed this essay on the absurdity that is our present national drug policy.  To wit:

Supporters of the failed war on drugs will no doubt argue this increase means policymakers should spend more taxpayer money next year arresting and incarcerating a greater number of Americans. In other words, their solution to failure is to do more of the same. Fortunately, the “reform nothing” club is getting mighty lonely these days — 76 percent of Americans recognize the drug war has failed; millions are demanding change…

Drug use is so widespread the FBI changed its policy of not hiring people with a history of illegal drug use because the policy disqualified so many people that it could not fill its law enforcement positions.

Here’s the part I find most interesting– the key should be finding ways to minimize the harm from drugs, not just outlaw them.  Americans just love their drugs too much.  In short, let’s be sensible (ahhh, when does that ever get American politicians anywhere):

It is long past time to abandon the silly notion that America can be a drug-free nation. The inconvenient truth in drug policy is that Americans love drugs — alcohol, caffeine, marijuana, cocaine, and prescription drugs for everything from anxiety to fatigue. Although some people develop problems with their drug use, most do not. This holds true for both legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco, and illegal drugs like marijuana and cocaine. Decades of evidence shows that the average user of any drug doesn’t get addicted and doesn’t create problems for anyone else. Obviously, some do.

We recognize these facts when it comes to legal drugs. It’s why we don’t arrest the tens of millions of Americans who drink responsibly, but do arrest people who drive while drunk or get belligerent and start fights. Yet we waste tens of billions of dollars every year arresting Americans for marijuana or other drugs, even when they’re not harming anyone. Then we either jam them into overcrowded jails where they take up space that could hold someone who committed a violent offense, or jam them into a treatment program where they take up limited spaces for people who really need help.

What matters most is not how many people use marijuana, alcohol or other drugs, but what’s the best way to reduce the problems associated with substance misuse without creating more harmful social problems.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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