Rethinking America's Drug-Control Strategy
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Rethinking America's Drug-Control Strategy
Posted by CN Staff on April 12, 2012 at 04:51:09 PT
By George Will, Syndicated Columnist
Source: Seattle Times
Washington, D.C. -- Amelioration of today's drug problem requires Americans to understand the significance of the 80/20 ratio. Twenty percent of American drinkers consume 80 percent of the alcohol sold here. The same 80-20 split obtains among users of illicit drugs.About 3 million people  less than 1 percent of America's population  consume 80 percent of illegal hard drugs. Drug trafficking organizations can be most efficiently injured by changing the behavior of the 20 percent of heavy users, and we are learning how to do so. Reducing consumption by the 80 percent of casual users will not substantially reduce the northward flow of drugs or the southward flow of money.
Consider current policy concerning the only addictive intoxicant currently available as a consumer good  alcohol. America's alcohol industry, which is as dependent on the 20 percent of heavy drinkers as they are on alcohol, markets its products aggressively, and effectively. Because marketing can drive consumption, America's distillers, brewers and vintners spend $6 billion on advertising and promoting their products. Americans' experience with marketing's power inclines them to favor prohibition and enforcement over legalization and marketing of drugs.But this choice has consequences: More Americans are imprisoned for drug offenses or drug-related probation and parole violations than for property crimes. And although America spends five times more jailing drug dealers than it did 30 years ago, the prices of cocaine and heroin are 80 percent to 90 percent lower than 30 years ago.In "Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know," policy analysts Mark Kleiman, Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken argue that imprisoning low-ranking, street-corner dealers is pointless: A $200 transaction can cost society $100,000 for a three-year sentence. And imprisoning large numbers of dealers produces an army of people who, emerging from prison with blighted employment prospects, can only deal drugs. Which is why, although a few years ago Washington, D.C., dealers earned an average of $30 an hour, today they earn less than the federal minimum wage ($7.25).Dealers, aka "pushers," have almost nothing to do with initiating drug use by future addicts; almost every user starts when given drugs by a friend, sibling or acquaintance. There is a staggering disparity between the trivial sums earned by dealers who connect the cartels to the cartels' customers, and the huge sums trying to slow the flow of drugs to those street-level dealers. Kleiman, Caulkins and Hawken say that in developed nations, cocaine sells for about $3,000 per ounce  almost twice the price of gold. And the supply of cocaine, unlike that of gold, can be cheaply and quickly expanded. But in the countries where cocaine and heroin are produced, they sell for about 1 percent of their retail price in America. If cocaine were legalized, a $2,000 kilogram could be FedExed from Colombia for less than $50 and sold profitably in America for a small markup from its price in Colombia, and a $5 rock of crack might cost 25 cents. Criminalization drives the cost of the smuggled kilogram in America up to $20,000. But then it retails for more than $100,000.People used to believe enforcement could raise prices but doubted that higher prices would decrease consumption. Now they know consumption declines as prices rise but wonder whether enforcement can substantially affect prices.They urge rethinking the drug-control triad of enforcement, prevention and treatment because we have been much too optimistic about all three.And cartels have oceans of money for corrupting enforcement because drugs are so cheap to produce and easy to renew. So it is not unreasonable to consider modifying a policy that gives hundreds of billions of dollars a year to violent organized crime.Marijuana probably provides less than 25 percent of the cartels' revenues. Legalizing it would take perhaps $10 billion from some bad and violent people, but the cartels would still make much more money from cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines than they would lose from marijuana legalization.Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized "medical marijuana," a messy, mendacious semi-legalization that breeds cynicism regarding law. In 1990, 24 percent of Americans supported full legalization. Today, 50 percent do. In 2010, in California, where one-eighth of Americans live, 46 percent of voters supported legalization, and some opponents were marijuana growers who like the profits they make from prohibition of their product.Would the public health problems resulting from legalization be a price worth paying for injuring the cartels and reducing the costs of enforcement? We probably are going to find out.George F. Will is a columnist for The Washington Post, writing about foreign and domestic politics and policy. Source: Seattle Times (WA)Author: George Will, Syndicated ColumnistPublished: April 11, 2012Copyright: 2012 The Seattle Times CompanyContact: opinion seatimes.comWebsite: Justice Archives 
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Comment #8 posted by afterburner on April 13, 2012 at 08:30:24 PT
Hope #7
Another good response from Pete's:George Will: Drug Prohibition Is an Awful Flop. We Like It.
Jacob Sullum | April 5, 2012
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Comment #7 posted by Hope on April 12, 2012 at 21:28:45 PT
"How can they be so arrogant?"
I see now.It's George Will.But still, and all. He is arrogant. And arrogance is no good. As far as how it reads, it is the kind of work that does, sadly, make one wonder just how old Mr. Will is these days? And is he for real? How much of his attitude and tenor are about entertainment?And is he alright?Your friend and mine, a brilliant man, I think, Pete Guither, over at drugwarrant worked this odd column over well. Pete's over there changing the world in a very positive way from his "couch". And other places."Huzza! Huzza!" to Pete."What?" to George Will.
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Comment #6 posted by Sam Adams on April 12, 2012 at 11:36:14 PT
what a crock
Look at the verbal gymnnastics now required by these corporate media mouthpieces! This old codger's got his fingers twisted up in knots typing this convoluted drivel.You can tell what prompted this - even the heartland's polling company, Gallup, is now reporting most people in favor of legalization. Law enforcement's worst nightmare is coming true - they're going to be forced to justify the entire fiscal cost of the drug war, and the resulting decimation of Constitutional rights - on the backs of a TINY number of heroin and cocaine users.
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Comment #5 posted by afterburner on April 12, 2012 at 09:10:00 PT
Rock 'n' Roll in Suits - But They Knew How to Play
A walk down memory lane for the cannabis reform veterans:Dave Clark Five - Because (Original Stereo) Dave Clark Five - Glad All Over Afternoon-The Moody Blues-(Long Extended Version)
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Comment #4 posted by museman on April 12, 2012 at 08:27:56 PT
Oh Great!
Another 'expert' opinion written like it was fact. More mundane, lukewarm , blase' statistical ad nauseam to make the dumbed down servants feel afraid of thinking on their own.If you string enough numbers and equations, along with (probably) invented-on-the-spot terminology, it does look impressive, even if its all just a lot of hot air being spewed to attain 'favored slave status' by being such a clever articulater of nonsense.This is written totally within the parameters of assumption held by prohibitionism that are 100% fallacy, -about the nature of herbs, the actual origin and creation of 'drugs,' the inability of the people to be self responsible -thereby requiring an number of elaborate organizations and concepts to fulfill that 'big brother' need- and the elite status if those who are 'properly' educated and indoctrinated into the higher echelon of the Status Quo.There is not one reference in this article that has anything to do with reality outside the confines of finite control, and imposition of false authority upon those who would be free.If I were to me this person on the street, I would feel like returning the favor of his lawurinating constituents and piss on the fool!That's the kind of emotional reaction this tripe inspires in me. Of course, unlike this psuedo-intellectual who no doubt makes a comfortable living painting the shite-covered asses and faces of the evil with whitewash and gold tint, but these things occupying valuable space pretending to be human are the only ones being fooled at this point, (besides their drooling, ass-kissing servants) I have a code of ethical behavior that I feel obliged to follow. So while they can spit on my liberties without accountability, I just have to suffer their indignities until justice arrives -and it is coming soon!Where do these people come from? Oh that's right, "schools and universities" 'academia' at it's finest. Apparently fantasy 101 is the required curriculum in all of 'em. Thoroughly disgusting.LEGALIZE FREEDOM
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Comment #3 posted by Hope on April 12, 2012 at 07:00:58 PT
How dare they?
How can they be so arrogant as to have such an attitude toward others? How dare they?
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Comment #2 posted by Hope on April 12, 2012 at 06:59:57 PT
Changing the behavior?
There's something so wrong and awful about even the sound of that phrase.Nothing about help if they want it. Just "changing the behavior". That's the sick authoritarian attitude we have running rampant in this nation today. Free people? Liberty? Our God-awful authoritarians are treating citizens like dogs. Literally.Oh my gosh. Don't they know how sickeningly wrong that is?
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Comment #1 posted by HempWorld on April 12, 2012 at 05:52:09 PT
It's more like, lost control as soon as it was declared illegal, but this was all part of the Rockefeller plan:
They planned our future!
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