OpEd feature article by Peter Moskos: If it’s on the shelves, it’s off the streets (in the Sunday Magazine)
In this piece, Peter talks about his studies of drug policy in Amsterdam, compared with his experiences as a police officer here.
In America, 37 percent of adults have tried marijuana; in the Netherlands the figure is 17 percent. Heroin usage rates are three times higher in the United States than in the Netherlands. Crystal meth, so destructive here, is almost nonexistent there. By any standard — drug usage rates, addiction, homicides, incarceration and dollars spent — America has lost the war on drugs.
And just as escalating the drug war over the past three decades hasn’t caused a decrease in supply and demand, there’s no good reason to believe that regulating drugs instead of outlawing them would cause an increase. If it did, why are drug usage rates in the Netherlands lower? People start and stop taking drugs for many different reasons, but the law seems to be pretty low on the list.
And he points toward the solution he prefers… getting the federal government out of the way.
History provides some lessons. The 21st Amendment ending Prohibition did not force anybody to drink or any city to license saloons. In 1933, after the failure to ban alcohol, the feds simply got out of the game. Today, they should do the same […]
Without federal control, states, cities and counties would be free to bar or regulate drugs as they saw fit. Just as with alcohol and tobacco regulation, one size does not fit all; we would see local solutions to local problems. […]
Even without federal pressure, most states and cities would undoubtedly start by maintaining the status quo against drugs. That’s fine. […]
One can easily imagine that in some cities — San Francisco, Portland and Seattle come to mind — alternatives to arrest and incarceration could be tried. They could learn from the experience of the Dutch, and we could all learn from their successes and failures.
I think this model makes a lot of sense, and today, despite overwhelming federal oppression, it’s the model that we seem to be partially implementing (at least as it relates to medical marijuana so far…). But it’ll be tough â€” the federal government sure doesn’t like to sit back and watch.