Rethinking The War on Drugs 
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Rethinking The War on Drugs 
Posted by CN Staff on April 23, 2012 at 05:01:33 PT
By Mark Kleiman, Jonathan Caulkins & Angela Hawken
Source: Wall Street Journal
USA -- Current drug policies do much more damage than they need to and much less good than they might, argues UCLA Prof. of Public Policy Mark Kleiman. He talks with WSJ's Gary Rosen about what's wrong with the war on drugs and what could be done to reduce the harm of heavy drug use."For every complex problem," H.L. Mencken wrote, "there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong." That is especially true of drug abuse and addiction. Indeed, the problem is so complex that it has produced not just one clear, simple, wrong solution but two: the "drug war" (prohibition plus massive, undifferentiated enforcement) and proposals for wholesale drug legalization.
Fortunately, these two bad ideas are not our only choices. We could instead take advantage of proven new approaches that can make us safer while greatly reducing the number of Americans behind bars for drug offenses. Our current drug policies do far more harm than they need to do and far less good than they might, largely because they ignore some basic facts. Treating all "drug abusers" as a single group flies in the face of what is known as Pareto's Law: that for any given activity, 20% of the participants typically account for 80% of the action. Most users of addictive drugs are not addicts, but a few consume very heavily, and they account for most of the traffic and revenue and most of the drug-related violence and other collateral social damage. If subjected to the right kinds of pressure, however, even most heavy users can and do stop using drugs. Frustration with the drug-policy status quo—the horrific levels of trafficking-related violence in Mexico and Central America and the fiscal, personal and social costs of imprisoning half a million drug dealers in the U.S.—has led to calls for some form of legalization. Just last week, at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, President Barack Obama got an earful from his Latin American counterparts about the need to reverse current U.S. drug policy. The appeal of legalization is clear. At a stroke, it would wipe out most problems of the black market by depriving gun-wielding thugs of their competitive advantage. But for it to work, it would have to include not just the possession of drugs but their production as well—and not just of marijuana but of substances that really are very dangerous: cocaine, crack, heroin and methamphetamine. 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. Fortunately, there are things that we already know how to do that work demonstrably better than our current antidrug regime and avoid the predictably dire consequences of legalization. These practical measures can't abolish drug abuse or the illicit markets, but they could shrink those problems to a manageable size. Start with the biggest problem: alcohol. Inflation has eroded the federal alcohol tax down to about a fifth of its Korean War level in constant-dollar terms. Analysis by Philip Cook of Duke University suggests that tripling the tax—from about a dime to about 30 cents a drink—would prevent at least 1,000 homicides and 2,000 motor-vehicle fatalities a year, all without enriching any criminals, putting anyone behind bars or having a SWAT team crash through anyone's door. Raising alcohol taxes would have a big effect on adolescents and heavy drinkers, but many problem users of alcohol would have enough money to keep guzzling. Some of them like to drink and drive, or drink and beat up other people. Telling them not to misbehave does not do much good, because being drunk makes them less responsive to the threat of criminal penalties. So we need to find ways of preventing drinking among the relatively small group of people who behave very badly when they drink. Larry Long, a district court judge in South Dakota, developed one promising approach, called 24/7 Sobriety. Started in 2005, it requires people who commit alcohol-related crimes—originally just repeat offenders for drunken driving but now other offenders—to show up twice a day, every day, for a breathalyzer test as a condition of staying out of jail. If they fail to appear, or if the test shows they have been drinking, they go straight to jail for a day. More than 99% of the time, they show up as ordered, sober. They can go to alcohol treatment, or not, as they choose; what they can't choose is to keep drinking. According to the state attorney general's office, some 20,000 South Dakotans have participated in 24/7 Sobriety (a large number for state with just 825,000 residents), and the program has made a big dent in rearrests for DUI. By distinguishing sharply between people who use alcohol badly and the larger population of non-problem users, 24/7 Sobriety moves past the simple dichotomy of either banning a drug entirely or making it legal in unlimited quantities for all adults.An alternative means to the same end would require everyone buying a drink to show identification. A state could then make someone convicted of drunken driving or drunken assault ineligible to buy a drink just by marking his driver's license. That is a pretty minimal intrusion on the liberty of people convicted of crimes and on the privacy of those who don't now get "carded." The same principle of denying drugs to problem users could work for the currently forbidden drugs. Current laws already make it illegal to possess or use cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, but the risk of arrest is too low to be much of a deterrent. However, once someone has been convicted of a crime, the rules change. Abstinence can be required as a condition of pretrial release, probation or parole, and that condition can be enforced with chemical testing. Drug testing is already widespread for probation and parole, but these systems lack any sort of swift, moderate penalty for detected drug use. Given the alternatives currently available—issuing a warning to the relapsed drug user or sending him back to serve out his full sentence—most judges and parole officers choose the warning. Probationers quickly learn that a warning is mostly a bluff, and they keep on using drugs and committing crimes. “'If subjected to the right kinds of pressure, even most heavy users can and do stop using drugs.'”Steven Alm, a circuit judge in Honolulu, and Leighton Iles, the probation chief for Tarrant County, Texas (Fort Worth and Arlington), have demonstrated that swift and certain sanctions make all the difference. In a carefully studied yearlong trial involving hundreds of probationers, Judge Alm's program, called HOPE, reduced drug use by more than 80% and days behind bars by more than 50%, according to figures from the National Institute of Justice. Offenders quickly learned that drug use was no longer something they could get away with, and even most long-term users were able to quit. The program freed them from the cycle of use, crime and incarceration. Having to call in every day to find out whether it is your day to be tested turns out to be powerful help in staying clean. As one probationer told a researcher, "Knowing I had to make that phone call the next morning ruined the high." Leighton Iles's Swift program in Texas has recorded equally impressive results, and there are promising pilot efforts with parolees in Seattle and Sacramento. Substantial progress in suppressing the drug use of arrestees would be a great boon. It would deprive the illicit drug markets of their most valuable customers, which would, in turn, reduce violence in inner-city neighborhoods and take the pressure off Latin American countries now racked by drug dealing. Since the war on drugs started in earnest three decades ago, the law has found it impossible to stop the flow of illegal drugs. Prices have dropped despite billions of dollars spent on catching drug dealers and locking them up. We are long overdue for refocusing antidrug efforts on the central task of protecting public safety and order. David Kennedy of John Jay College in New York City has pioneered two related programs designed to go after the most violent dealers and organizations and to shut down the most violent market areas. His Drug Market Intervention program, first used in High Point, N.C., in 2004 and replicated many times in places such as Hempstead, N.Y., and Memphis, Tenn., focuses on areas where crack houses and flagrant street-corner dealing generate crime and disorder. The first step, once the police negotiate community support, is to identify all the dealers and make cases against them. Then comes the surprising part: Instead of being arrested, the nonviolent dealers are called in for a meeting. (The handful of violent ones go to jail.) They are presented with the evidence against them—perhaps video of them making a sale—and confronted by angry neighbors, clergy and relatives. Each one is then offered a choice: Stop dealing and get help to turn your life around, or tell it to the judge. The point is not to eliminate the drug supply but to force dealing into a less flagrant and socially damaging form: sales in bars or home delivery instead of street-corner transactions. The results have been spectacular, with long-established markets disappearing overnight. Prof. Kennedy's other innovation was the Boston Ceasefire program. In 1996, violent youth gangs engaged in drug dealing and other crimes were brought in by the authorities and given a simple message: "If anyone in your gang shoots somebody, we will come down on every member of the gang for all of his illegal activity." Suddenly gang members had a strong reason to enforce nonviolence on one another, and pressure from peers turned out to be more effective than pressure from police officers. Youth homicides dropped from two a month before the program started to none in the following two years. This approach could be applied to violent individuals as well. Instead of trying to arrest all dealers indiscriminately, law enforcement could identify the most violent dealers, warn them that if they don't stop right away they are headed to prison, and focus on putting away as many as possible of those who don't quit. That wouldn't shrink the supply of drugs, but it might reduce street violence. 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. —Dr. Kleiman is professor of public policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Dr. Caulkins is Stever Professor of Operations Research and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Hawken is associate professor of public policy at Pepperdine University. They are co-authors of "Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know." A version of this article appeared April 21, 2012, on page C1 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Drug war.Newshawk: HopeSource: Wall Street Journal (US)Author: Mark Kleiman, Jonathan Caulkins and Angela HawkenPublished: April 21, 2012Copyright: 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.Contact: wsj.ltrs wsj.comWebsite: Justice Archives 
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Comment #16 posted by FoM on April 24, 2012 at 19:39:48 PT
It's really good to see you. I hope all is well.
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Comment #15 posted by JustGetnBy on April 24, 2012 at 19:15:44 PT:
Words of freedom
Runruff Preach it brother, words of freedom ring sweet in my ears.
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Comment #14 posted by museman on April 24, 2012 at 07:33:37 PT
Here in Jefferson
We walk around in public with our hair down. There are more visible 'hippy' types - from about age 16 - 70 than there ever were during the 'day.' And a sizeable amount of people who don't look the part, but still favor liberty and cannabis also populate the region.Here in Josephine County, we consistently voted out the cops for nearly a decade. The sheriffs in neighboring counties called us the 'lawless county.' We proudly agreed. But as the New Boss (same as the old boss) came into power, they came back in force. Supposedly, the police force of America is supposed to be a 'citizen -based' organization -we supposedly get to elect our sheriff, and vote on funding for them. Reagan made it so that any 'citizen' who wants to be sheriff, must comply with certain federal standards -notably the WOD, and 'anti-terrorist' legislation. He must be 'trained' to accept and implement those standards or the fed -through their many lawyer/politician puppets, will nullify the election.Supposedly it is unconstitutional to have a 'standing army' on US soil except in times of war. I guess the 'war' on american citizens, in the convoluted 'logic' of legaleze justifies the fact that the cops are exactly that. Mostly trained in the various conflicts and conquests set up by the kings and pharaohs of corporate dominion, there are very few 'civilian' police left on the streets.Here in Jefferson, even the rednecks don't like the feds. Contingencies have been in place since the WOD began, and people began to notice the fascist direction our government was heading. There are only 3 roads into our valley, and two of them involve bridges and tunnels that could easily be blown. (I'm not planning anything, I just know about it). In fact, the first ones around here to shoot back won't be the 'hippies.'Here in the state of Jefferson, we value our liberty quite highly. Our children have been brought up to value it as well. Most of us also know the difference between twisted, convoluted propaganda, and Truth.We have a high population of 'self-made' individuals; artists, musicians, craftsmen, writers, poets, and lovers of life. All following Jeffersonian values of freedom, in blatant denial of all the stupid laws, ordinances, and other unconstitutional crap that the feds have been shoving down the people's throat nationally. Oh we're trying to spit it out, and choking on it like all freedom loving people in amerika right now, but we are definitely a thorn in their side.They are trying to wipe out our communities any way they can. There is a 'Siskyou Monument' legislative project in the works since the new regime came to power, that intends to revert all private property in the proposed area (from the Ca. border, East to the Oregon Caves, west to the coast, and north to Hays Hill (the edge of our valley). The feds want to revert it all to a 'wilderness' state, removing all but a few monitored and restricted roads. That would accomplish 3 major victories for the fed. They would destroy nearly 60% of the medical marijuana source in Oregon, displace, uproot, and dis-empower the core communities of the 'counterculture,' and most important of all, give the logging companies (remember hemp?) complete unfettered, and unreportable access to the Old Growth timber that still exists in the Kalmiopsis wilderness between us and the coast. It is an insidious plan, but I don't think the feds really realize what they are up against. They haven't succeeded in taking away our right to bear arms, and around here more than 50% of the population is armed. That's about 400,000 give or take.Even if they 'make a law' telling us we all have to move, with some piddly 'compensation' for our loss, I suspect there will be a bit of resistance.The state of Jefferson holds these truths to be self evident; "That all men are created equal. That we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." That particular philosophy has been rendered null and void by the wall street powered government.The many slaves who have supported it for so long, continue to slave away, but here in Jefferson, we at least know what slavery is, even if we still have to reluctantly serve the masters of power and dominion from time to time to feed our children. But many of us are aware of what was meant by Yashua when he said, "Man does not live by bread alone, but by the very word that issues from the mouth of YHWH." Our values are held accordingly.There is a book called "Ecotopia" written sometime in the 80s or 70s that gives a fictional rendering of a situation that we here in Jefferson may be forced to accomplish if the feds keep pushing."You can only police the people so much before they rise up and throw them off." -not sure of the author.LEGALIZE FREEDOM
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Comment #13 posted by ekim on April 24, 2012 at 06:23:27 PT
silly rabbit
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Comment #12 posted by runruff on April 24, 2012 at 04:59:10 PT
Dwight Holton.
De Black Holton I do not care what color he is, the people of Oregon who like to refer to ourselves as the Jefferson State do not like the feds. The Politicians generally love the the fed for the their money. Sounds a lot like another profession, doesn't it? I now go out every week-end and peddle my book at gatherings such as our local farmers Produce market. I will be handing out fliers and explain that this guy is nothing but a federal shill. He is here to try and effect our states self chosen laws.
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Comment #11 posted by Paul Pot on April 23, 2012 at 21:26:26 PT:
legalize nature
Another moronic pile of garbage supporting the drug war while pretending not to.Legalize! Apologize! Compensate!And put the drug war criminals on trial for crimes against humanity.
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Comment #10 posted by The GCW on April 23, 2012 at 18:32:57 PT
Dump that chump, from now on.
Marijuana Activists Target Oregon AG CandidateA candidate for Oregon state Attorney General faces an unusual new opposition campaign.Democrat Dwight Holton has become the target of medical marijuana activists. Holton faces retired judge Ellen Rosenblum in the May Democratic primary.Medical marijuana groups say Holton cracked down on marijuana growers and distributors during his time as a federal prosecutor. He served Oregon’s U.S. attorney for two years.Pro-legalization activist Bob Wolfe has launched an anti-Holton website and says, "Medical marijuana activists are targeting every public appearance that Mr. Holton has from now on."
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Comment #9 posted by Sam Adams on April 23, 2012 at 18:19:12 PT
the penny
how about the penny situation? They're not needed anymore. Canada and most Euro countries have dumped them.It is now costing the US taxpayers $70 million per year to have pennies.  It costs the govt. 2.4 cents to make each one. Is the solution to this problem too "complicated" for the US? Or are we a totally hidebound, corrupt society, whose govt. has gone crazy and totally incompetent? I think this article is some of the most sinister, Orwellian propaganda I've ever seen.
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Comment #8 posted by Sam Adams on April 23, 2012 at 18:17:03 PT
From what I've read, the same percentage of the population is addicted to heroin as it was back in 1910 before prohibition laws. WAY more people use cannabis today than in 1910.  All the WOD has done is cost us a fortune in money that could have gone to infrastructure, health care, education, or a tax cut. And turned the country into a militarized police state.Is THAT too complex for us simple-minded peons to understand? The drug laws are a DISASTER, repeal them immediately!
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Comment #7 posted by Richard Zuckerman on April 23, 2012 at 14:20:57 PT:
Legalistic Marijuana law enforcement supporter:
I'm not even going to ask for the references of his sources supporting his position that these are "proven". Their "proven" methods may fit well in a Police State. Undoubtedly, this country is becoming a Police State. Obummer has recently or is about to cede our waterways to United Nations jurisdiction, without our permission. Billary Clinton signed the international small arms treaties. Our internet usage is about to be monitored and perhaps censored. Our air space is being filled with "drones" to watch (and listen?) to us. A movement is underway by President Obummer's buddies in the federal legislature to require all new cars to have a Black box which would enable them to tax us every mile we drive. Our U.S. President, whose Birth Certificate is who-knows-where (certainly not Hawaii), classifies protestors as domestic terrorists, and has prosecuted more whistleblowers than other administrations while not prosecuting White Collar criminals. He wants to spend, spend, spend, and anybody who wants to cut spending he opposes with chagrin. Despite the agitated remarks I received at the V.A. hospital from Black folks that "he inherited the debt from George Bush", I received a video clip this morning of a television newscast stating Obama has raised the national debt more than George W. Bush!! With a law degree from Harvard Law Degree, he even intimated that if the United States Supreme Court strikes down the Obamacare health care legislation, they would be legislating from the bench, rather than merely exercising their power what is known as judicial review. He had worked in a law firm but didn't do any work. The First Lady was disbarred. I'm not sure whether Obama's law license was pulled, but he never really worked on any cases, anyway. The author does not mention their drug tests have been known to register false positives. "If subjected to the right kind of pressure" heavy drug abuses can and do stop abusing drugs. The feds are trying to do that right now, arrest, incapacitate, and unemploy, everyone caught with drugs (except the federal government's drug dealers, you know, U.S. military, C.I.A., certain D.E.A. agents in foreign countries)."We are long overdue for refocusing antidrug efforts on the central task of protecting public safety and order." It sounds like the U.C.L.A. Professor wants to go back to the good old days with then-U.S. Senator Joseph Biden. He wants us to continue expending billions, trillions, of dollars for a "war on drugs" which does not amount to a hill of beans except empowers cops, jailers, judges, legislators, the government. We are now going bankrupt because of the brilliant suggestions of these highly educated scholars! We are headed back to the Stone Age, the way we are going!
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Comment #6 posted by observer on April 23, 2012 at 10:51:44 PT
Must Keep Arresting Pot Smokers at all Costs
re: "If they fail to appear, or if the test shows they have been drinking, they go straight to jail for a day."What a weasel-worded crock!Any excuse will do to keep the pot-to-jail pipeline full - which is what RAND is suggesting here. Only with a slight change of rhetoric, designed to fool you (again).This is the same as is happening now. No difference. He's putting a happy face on drug courts for pot, again. Government guns at your head: "Stop smoking - or go to jail! And we're totalitarians, so we're testing your blood, pee, and breath many times a day. Or jail. (Appear to) resist (in any way) and be shot, as always."Same old jail. Same old "drug court" for pot. Same old government guns at your head as "treatment" for your "illness" of "addiction" to marijuana. Nothing new here.
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Comment #5 posted by greenmed on April 23, 2012 at 10:20:38 PT
a good step forward
It is great to see this finally happen, even more so when it passes!--->City Council to vote on resolution to de-emphasize primary arrests for potBy: Graham Moomaw | The Daily ProgressPublished: April 21, 2012A resolution that would declare marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority in the city of Charlottesville has been scheduled for an up-or-down vote at the next City Council meeting, according to city officials.Jordan McNeish, an activist who led a weeks-long push to get councilors to take up the resolution, said three of five councilors have told him they plan to support it.“I think it’s huge,” said McNeish, a 23-year-old city resident. “…What it would really do is — as well as take a public stand — drive home the fact that the Charlottesville government does not wish to pursue people for possession of marijuana as a primary charge.”The precise text of the resolution for the May 7 meeting is not yet available, and councilors can amend the wording, but it’s likely to be modeled after a draft resolution presented by McNeish, who has openly acknowledged that he has had past legal issues involving marijuana.His version states: “Charlottesville City Council recognizes that marijuana offenses, in which cannabis is intended for adult, personal use and intoxicated driving is not involved, should be Charlottesville’s lowest law-enforcement priority.”The state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) believes councilors will be voting on the “first resolution of its kind in Virginia,” but other cities around the U.S. — including Seattle and Denver — have taken similar steps, according to the group’s website.(cont'd)
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Comment #4 posted by museman on April 23, 2012 at 09:00:41 PT
such is the price
of giving so much belief to mediocre "expertise."Who you gonna call?"UCLA Prof. of Public Policy?"LEGALIZE FREEDOM
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Comment #3 posted by dongenero on April 23, 2012 at 08:54:42 PT
But for one cursory mention, this article conveniently skirts the issue of cannabis.Perhaps it's just a given in this discussion and for the author that cannabis prohibition is ridiculous???According to Govt. studies in 1995, 57% of illicit substance users use cannabis only. I would say this discussion on legalization seems to miss what is the majority of the market.There's a safer alternative to the substances they discuss.
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Comment #2 posted by afterburner on April 23, 2012 at 08:35:16 PT
Now Having Admitted That Only 20% Are the Problem
{ Treating all "drug abusers" as a single group flies in the face of what is known as Pareto's Law: that for any given activity, 20% of the participants typically account for 80% of the action. }Now that the prohibitionists have admitted that only 20% are the problem, the US federal government will have a much harder time justifying the sledgehammer approach of the "War on [some] Drugs [and their people]. Obama's new method seems to give control over the "criminals" back to the judges and their probation conditions. Maybe, the doctors will even get a chance to help people who have a medical issue of compulsive overuse. Stranger things have happened. Meanwhile, the 80% are waiting for true justice. Cannabis patients are still in danger of losing access to their medicine or even their freedom. Those who choose a safer relaxant are still ostracized, caged, and have their property confiscated. The SWAT team sledgehammer destroys people and property, often at the wrong address based on the word of some low-life snitch.Free hemp!Free cannabis from the shackles of lies, propaganda and bigotry.
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Comment #1 posted by Oleg the Tumor on April 23, 2012 at 05:53:33 PT
Uh, I think this means we are screwed . . . .
"It remains to be seen whether our political process—and the media circus that often shapes it—can tolerate the necessary complexity."
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