The drug war is over

Or at least the Obama Administration is “over” the drug war. The new “Drug Czar” says so.

… or at least the Obama Administration is “over” the drug war. So says the new Drug Czar. The reporter thinks that this will be “more controversial” than the previous hard-line, but the only evidence is from talking to the heads of two police organizations. I wouldn’t call one vote against confirmation in the Senate as evidence of deep controversy.

I’m hoping that as Kerlikowske, the cop, brings to the table an appropriate skepticism about how much drug law enforcement can do, Tom McLellan, the treatment guy, will bring an equivalent skepticism about what is called (not very accurately) “the demand side”: treatment and “prevention.” In each case, there’s lots of organizational and professional self-interest pushing to keep the funding streams growing, pretty much independent of any demonstrated efficacy.

In particular, while coerced treatment within the criminal-justice system has its place, there’s not a treatment program anywhere that can match the success in reducing drug use of a consistent program of drug testing and modest but immediate sanctions.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: