The NYT's Nicholas Kristof joins the ranks of those urging an end to the drug war. The War on drugs, Kristof notes, has had three consequences: 1) "we have vastly increased the proportion of our population in prisons"; 2) "we have empowered criminals at home and terrorists abroad"; and 3) "we have squandered resources." Writes Kristof, "if our aim is to reduce the influence of harmful drugs, we can do better."
Kristof notes that the available empirical evidence suggests that decriminalization would not produce a dramatic increase in drug consumption. Still, there is significant uncertainty. He puts forward an interesting proposal:
Moving forward, we need to be less ideological and more empirical in figuring out what works in combating America's drug problem. One approach would be for a state or two to experiment with legalization of marijuana, allowing it to be sold by licensed pharmacists, while measuring the impact on usage and crime.A related idea, put forward some years back in the book Undoing Drugs: Beyond Legalization, would be for the federal government to treat more drugs like alcohol, leaving states to set specific drug policies but making it a federal crime to transport drugs into a state in violation of that state's laws. For most of the country, for most drugs, this would mean no change (at least not in the near term). But it would enable those states that are so inclined to experiment with marijuana decriminalization and other drug policy reforms, and such experiments would inform the broader debate over drug policy.