Ezra Klein approvingly quotes the report of the collection of former Pooh-Bahs calling themselves the Global Commission on Drug Policy:
The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.
Ezra then adds, in his own voice: “A new approach, one based more on realistic interventions than martial metaphors, is needed,” and asks “What alignment of political forces and events would be needed for America to seriously rethink its drug laws?”
That question assumes that there’s a well-defined alternative to the “drug war.” Despite the obfuscations of the Global Commission, no one has actually come up with a convincing Plan B, unless you think alcohol and tobacco are good models.
I’m not saying that there isn’t a Plan B: my preferred drug policy would be very different from current policy. But nothing the Global Commission recommends – more treatment, more “prevention,” less hassling of users – would substantially change the underlying picture.
If we want fewer dealers in prison and fewer billions in illicit earnings, we have to enable licit commerce – or some close substitute for commerce – and no one knows how to do that without greatly increasing problem consumption. (Though Jim Leitzel gives it a good try.)
I’d bite the bullet on cannabis (and, for different reasons, radically change hallucinogen policy). For cocaine, heroin, and meth, the right reply to the anti-drug-war crowd is “Show us the policies!” So far, they’re just bluffing.