Two views on drug policy

The BBC interviews me, and Joe Arpaio. At most one of us is making sense. See if you can figure out which one.

Extra points for spotting my outrageous blooper.

BBC “The World Today”

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:

15 thoughts on “Two views on drug policy”

  1. Yes, it was dificult to understand Joe Arpario’s thinking? He admits, “cartels are becomming very, very violent and more violent”, but it is a “cop out” to focus on the most violent cartels, “we should go after everyone”, though he considers that “more crackdown leads to more drug activity”. His solution “more crackdown”, because with a hint of resignation “we can´t surrender”.

    I didn´t hear or see a blooper from Mark, unless he meant to say hostage to their un-willingness rather than “willingness” to conduct their violence with a minimum amount of bloodshed?

  2. It’s not for nothing that Arpaio was known as ‘nickel-bag Joe’ in the old FBN. Anything like dynamic concentration will seem like defeatism to his constituency, which is large. In Arizona, drug policy is increasingly an instrument of anti-immigrant and ati-Latino demagogues. The formula is: cartel members ≈ illegal immigrants ≈ Hispanic citizens. The most popular political figures in the state — no longer just the lunatic fringe — call for sealing the border, transfer of the entire undocumented population, and large-scale US military intervention in Mexico. It’s not impossible that drug policy will fall into the hands of these people, whose solution to everything is more mindless brutality.

  3. My reading is that while Mark is thinking in terms of what we may be able to do and how best to do that, Joe is thinking in terms of what’s the right moral stance. For Joe drugs are evil, and it’s immoral to accept evil. Moreover, the important thing is to fight evil wherever it appears. The consequences are simply not the important thing for him.

  4. Two views on drug policy? No. One view on drug policy and an idiot trying to punch his way out of a bag made of his worst fears.

  5. BTW, the average weekly audience for the BBC World Service is 188 million. The Beeb doesn’t have,or chooses not to publish, audiences by programme, but it’s reasonable to guess that Mark’s audience reached 100 million. An order of magnitude greater thn Fox News.

  6. I totally reject even the mere suggestion that that man deserves to be on a show with Mark. I think I just lost respect for the Beeb.

  7. Arpaio: “Fantasy? I don’t believe that. You can’t have a defeatist attitude. This is the greatest country on earth. Lock up the dope peddlers. Put them in jail for a long time…”

    The proper follow up question: “Even if that means raising taxes to build more prisons?”

    The irony of course is all of Kleiman’s advise is built for the real world. It is all triage. Positioning resources where they are most effective. He says focus on the heavy users who tend to be hard criminals and use most of the drugs. He says to focus on the most violent cartels to evolutionarily select for less violence. That’s a fascinating idea…

    So yeah I agree….
    Only one of these folks is making sense and cents…

  8. MK’s strategy relies on coercing abstinence upon heavy users. What proportion of these heavy users are currently intercepted by law enforcement? Any back of the envelope calculations possible using NSDUH/ADAM/UCS..etc?

  9. Daksya: Excellent question. Using the number of drug-positive offenders computable (with some extra assumptions) from ADAM and the number of non-offending heavy drug users computable from NSDUH, the answer is that about 3/4 of the heavy users got arrested last year. Since heavy users account for about 80% of total volume, that means 60% of the volume goes to the arrestee population. That’s what made me a fan of drug testing and sanctions for probationers and parolees even before the unreasonably wonderful HOPE results came in.

  10. Is one of your assumptions that NSDUH’s estimate of total users is within the ballpark? I remember seeing research that tried to corroborate self-reported use with sample testing and found substantial underreporting for the hard drugs viz. cocaine/heroin, although I suppose the underreporting would be largely confined to the casual user.

  11. Mark,

    Great stuff. Didn’t get the blooper either. What I wonder is what sort of editorial decision making process would lead the BBC to put Joe Arpaio alongside you in a piece on drug policy. Besides the fact that he is morally repugnant, It’s not like he has any partícular expertise on the subject nor any specialized knowledge on Mexico and the Mexican cartels. So WTF?

    Best regares,

  12. Great interview, given my willingness to conduct violence with a minimum amount of bloodshed

  13. Of course, being smart compared to Sheriff Joe is easy. But being smart in general is hard. I’ve now gone throughh the book once, and I am not as smart as Schelling, remaining unconvinced on some points. But I’m going to think and wait for a bit, then read it again, and then I’ll tell Mark what a moron he is.

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