Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's a start... maybe

Two promising tidbits regarding our irrational attitude towards drugs:
White House Czar Calls for End to 'War on Drugs'
Gary Fields
WSJ online
14 May 2009
Kerlikowske Says Analogy Is Counterproductive; Shift Aligns With Administration Preference for Treatment Over Incarceration

Governor says he's open to debate on legal pot
Wyatt Buchanan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday that the time is right to debate legalizing marijuana for recreational use in California.
When will a "serious", "respected" politician or journalist have the courage to explicitly compare our current drug laws to Prohibition? When will a new H.L. Mencken appear on the scene to lobby in the public print for repeal of our irrational drug laws?

Public safety would be enhanced:
- legal manufacturers & distributors replace crime syndicates;
- quality-control of product protects users.

Tax-base expanded:
- rather than throwing money at interdiction, policing, and incarceration, taxing manufacturers, distributors, and consumers generates $$$ for local, state, and federal govt.

It would even help our efforts in Afghanistan! - the opium crop we're now desperately trying to eradicate suddenly becomes a legitimate export to support the fledgling Afghan government.
(note: under current policy, the opium funds our enemy - the Taliban.)

Those fearful drug wars on the U.S.-Mexican border? - a thing of the past. The criminal gangs are suddenly deprived of their livelihood.

The criminal paramilitary drug cartels in Colombia? Their $$$ dry up... (Okay, maybe they'd just now be legal cartels - but the immense profits deriving from criminalization would no longer accrue to them.)

In my lifetime? I doubt it.

p.s. Is anyone aware of a more-or-less impartial cost-benefit analysis regarding decriminalization of drugs (either all or some - e.g., just marijuana)? I could be persuaded by evidence to the contrary, but my sense is that most of the societal costs of drug use derive directly from criminalization - policing, interdiction, incarceration, drug-related gang violence. I don't pretend that there would be NO new costs if drugs were decriminalized and regulated... but my belief is that these would be a fraction of the savings derived from legalization. Again, I can be persuaded by evidence to the contrary.

IF no such studies exist, does anyone know a bright young economics doctoral student who'd be interested in pursuing this question as a thesis topic?

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