“The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.”
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The question is: What is the best way to go about it? For 40 years now, our nation’s approach has been to criminalize the entire process of producing, transporting, selling and using drugs, with the exception of tobacco and alcohol. Our judgment, shared by other members of the commission, is that this approach has not worked, just as our national experiment with the prohibition of alcohol failed. Drugs are still readily available, and crime rates remain high. But drug use in the U.S. is no lower than, and sometimes surpasses, drug use in countries with very different approaches to the problem.
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The problem starts with the demand for drugs. As Milton Friedman put it forcibly over 20 years ago in the pages of this paper: “It is demand that must operate through repressed and illegal channels. Illegality creates obscene profits that finance the murderous tactics of the drug lords; illegality leads to the corruption of law enforcement officials.”