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by Peter Moskos

June 14, 2008

The path to drug regulation?

I had a thought about your book. This is not a criticism but something I was left wanting when I finished. Someone, somewhere, (and I nominate you) needs to articulate at length a pathway from the current environment towards what decriminalization/legalization would look like.

If there's one out there it's not widely known.

I think there's a lot more enthusiasm for legalization than there appears because there's no channel for it. A lot of people that are for it or at least equivocal would say "let's give Plan X a try". Its harder to bring people around to a conceptual, as you know from working the street.

I also believe (in my tiny little opinion) that the black community would get behind any reasonable pathway presented because they're paying an outsized price for the war on drugs.

One thing has occurred to me though: Any plan offered would have to consider the pushback from a multi-billion dollar tax free industry having it's existence threatened.

Sgt. [name and e-mail withheld upon request]
Thanks for the nomination. And that's a valid complaint about my book. To be honest, I have no idea.

I'm pretty pessimistic about the whole possibility of any real pullback in the war on drugs. But then I suppose "wets" thought that too, in 1925. Maybe it really does start with medicinal marijuana. Maybe more Americans need to visit Holland. Maybe it has to do with getting the medical industry behind regulation (because they could profit from treatment and would profit from selling legal drugs). Maybe it has to do with finding and outing a criminal element contributing to drug war politicians. Maybe it's LEAP.

But it's not just drug dealers who are against legalization. It's prison guards. It's police agencies. It's the makers of military equipment. It's the entire prison-industrial complex.

I'm open to ideas. Comment below.


Anonymous said...

The only direct path is the possibility of taxation putting this over the top. California needs revenue badly and heavily taxed marijuana might go down a little easier.

I'm not sure that you would get much support on drug legalization from the ghetto neighborhoods. The distinction regarding damage from drugs and damage from the war on drugs may be too subtle for people who have seen lives and communities wrecked by drugs. In the Black community, the Churches are politically important and they aren't likely to be big advocates for legalization.

PCM said...

My gut instinct is also that prominent leaders in the black community aren't big advocates of legalization.

But community leaders are for alternatives to incarceration. Taxes and treatment (and real community policing) could go a long way.

Deep down, though, I think the war on drugs is perpetuated more by suburban whites (both blue-collar conservative Republicans and richer "progressive" Democrats) who care very little about what's going on in the ghetto.

Anything that is perceived (however falsely) as increasing the likelihood of their daughter shooting up heroin will be more important than the potential of thousands of lives potentially being saved in another community.

But taxes... now that hits home to everybody (except, of course, those who don't pay taxes)!

Steve said...

Why not tie drug regulation to education, and pit various lobbies against each other? State lotteries seem to do that very well.