America can end its war on drugs. Here's how.
In a recent post on Vox, German Lopez discusses "three of the best ideas on dismantling the current system. These are by no means the only options for ending the war on drugs. But they are the ones that seemed, based on my reporting on the issue and data, to have the most merit."
One of the three approaches he identifies is based on work done by Mark Kleiman, the Director of the Crime and Justice Program and a Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management.
Approach 2: Decriminalization, smart prohibition, and smart legalization
Another possibility is to pull back the drug war even further through decriminalization, but significantly alter how governments enforce prohibition and regulate legal drugs.
Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert at the New York University's Marron Institute, calls this approach "smart prohibition" and "smart legalization." "Smart prohibition would try to maintain the gains we have made in terms of drug abuse compared to the legal market with as little ancillary damage as possible," he said. "And smart legalization would try to eliminate the ancillary damage with as little harm on the public health side as possible."
Kleiman elaborated on the two pillars:
- Smart prohibition would focus on penalizing and preventing problematic behaviors and actions surrounding drugs, rather than punishing mere drug use. For example, drug users could be punished for repeatedly stealing things to pay for a drug habit, but they would not be strictly punished if their drug habit was not harming anyone. And to the extent someone is punished, sentences would be generally lower and not carry as many punishments after jail or prison time (so convicted drug offenders wouldn't be barred, as they are today, from obtaining student loans or voting).
- Smart legalization would allow the use and sales of certain drugs, while minimizing the commercialization of legal drugs — by, for example, putting the state government in charge of drug sales or only allowing nonprofits to sell drugs.
Generally, smart prohibition would apply to all the illicit drugs except marijuana and hallucinogens, and smart legalization would apply to alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and hallucinogens.
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