Mark Kleiman has a really outstanding piece at The American Interest Online: Dopey, Boozy, Smoky — and Stupid (although the title, which he didn’t pick, sucks).
This is Kleiman’s best piece to date, and finally does justice to his analyses of the failures of prohibition. For the most part, he avoids his usual unsupported attack on legalizers, with only the slightest obligatory mention…
…the standard political line between punitive drug policy ‹hawksŠ and service-oriented drug policy ‹doves.Š Neither side is consistently right; some potential improvements in drug policy are hawkish, some are dovish, and some are neither.
Some of his suggestions for policy reform are a little bizarre and unworkable (his drinking license, which he’s been promoting for over a decade if I recall right, is laughable).
But his discussions about the nature of drug use and prohibition are really quite good. Here are a few snippets:
Most drug use is harmless, and much of it is beneficialÖat least if harmless pleasure and relaxation count as benefits. […]
Not all drugs are equally risky or abusable. But since different drugs are abused in different ways and have different harm profiles, there is no single measure of ‹harmfulnessŠ or ‹addictivenessŠ by which drugs can be ranked. Moreover, the overall damage caused by a drug does not depend on its neurochemistry alone; the composition of the user base and the social context and customs around its use also matter. […]
Some pairs of drugs are substitutes for one another, so that making one more available will reduce consumption of the other. […]
Taxes, regulations and prohibitions can reduce drug consumption and abuse, but always at the cost of making the remaining consumption more damaging than it would otherwise be. […]
But once a drug has an established mass market, more enforcement cannot greatly shrink the problem; existing customers will seek out new suppliers, and imprisoned dealers, seized drugs and even dismantled organizations are replaced. Moreover, the effectiveness of enforcement tends to fall over time as the illicit industries learn to adapt. We have 15 times as many drug dealers in prison today as we had in 1980, yet the prices of cocaine and heroin have fallen by more than 80 percent. […]
And some of his suggestions include legalizing personal growth of marijuana, eliminating the drinking age, not relying on D.A.R.E., expanding opiate maintenance programs, and getting drug enforcement out of the way of pain relief.
I haven’t had time to analyze the full piece, but as a policy recommendation short of a full legalization regime, it’s one of the best ones out there.