Drug policy – the case for realism
This article was published in The Sydney Morning Herald 7 June 2011
Governments acting on behalf of society have deemed the production, distribution and consumption of (some!) drugs to be unacceptable and the subject of criminal law. Add to this strong policing and public campaigns to discourage use and we have the "War on Drugs".
Although it is clear that this war has not abolished the drug industry, the drug warriors say it is a justifiable use of public authority and resources because it sends a clear message about the dangers of drug use and acts as a disincentive for involvement in the different parts of the industry. In other words it constrains what might otherwise be an epidemic of drug use and abuse.
At one level it is an argument based on values ("just say no to drugs") and at another level an argument based on empirical claims ("criminalisation reduces use").
On the other side are the drug law reformers who are mostly libertarians or realists.