In 1983 you wrote that increased policing would drive drug prices up and consumption down. What went wrong?
It was a beautiful theory destroyed by a gang of ugly facts. Law enforcement against cocaine is now 10 times as severe as it was in 1980. But the price is down 80 per cent. One cause is that the wages of drug dealing labour have fallen radically since the late 1980s. We have put so many crack dealers in prison, and made it impossible for them to get any other form of employment. When they come out there is nothing for them to do but deal crack.
So how do you cut demand?
The place to reduce demand for illicit drugs is inside the criminal justice system. This has been demonstrated in
How does that work?
This is about offenders on probation who typically have a long history of methamphetamine use and have been convicted for theft. In the past they would take a series of drug tests and after six, or nine or 12 failures, the probation officer would send them back to jail for six months. They couldn't understand why they ended up in jail. In Hawaii Judge
Why isn't this used everywhere?
It requires really good public management -- co-ordination among judges, probation supervisors, police, treatment providers and lawyers. It was tried in
The big problem is that it takes 45 days from a breach of probation conditions to seeing a judge, and that is regarded as swift. On Planet Earth that is intolerably slow. A sanction 45 days after the offence has no deterrent effect. It has to come immediately.
Should we have night courts like
Why do you need someone in a black gown to rule on whether someone on probation used cocaine? The probation office could have its own internal hearings based on chemical evidence. If the offender wants to appeal, he ought to be able to see a judge. But I don't see any need to get a judge involved in routine sanctioning. Since the probationer knows he faces a couple of days in jail, not months, he's not likely to argue about it.
It's not a prescription, it's a recommendation. There are doctors who spend all day writing out recommendations at
What should be done?
People who have medical need for marijuana ought to receive reliable drugs with good medical advice. Someone has to go through the
What about people who just want to smoke marijuana?
They ought to get it too. Let people grow their own, or join co-operatives -- that's one, non-commercial way. Or you could have some version of state monopoly, very heavily taxed. These are two good ways. But what we are probably going to adopt is something like the regime for alcohol in
When will cannabis be legalized in the US?
You once said, there's nothing wrong with international drugs policy, except that all its premises are false. What's the alternative?
All we have to do is to drop the slogans, look at the phenomena and make policies based on reason and evidence. But the international drug control regime is not the only problem. There is a counter narrative. This holds that the problem with current policies is that they are based on prohibition, and we need to replace them with policies of regulated supply. And I say, how are we doing with alcohol and tobacco?
Surely reform has to be better than prohibition?
This drug policy reform narrative is based on two false claims. One, it's possible to substitute regulation and taxation for prohibition and still prevent a mass upsurge in use. I'd like to see how you can do that. The other fallacy is that prohibition is an original sin: once you have committed prohibition you cannot have a sensible drug policy. But I'm convinced we could have policies where most illicit drugs remain illicit but cause much less damage. Against that claim both the prohibitionists and the drug policy reformers will protest.
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