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The Economist: 'Bring Drugs Within the Law'


June 1993

The Economist, which has consistently supported legalization for a number of years, published a major story this May once again endorsing legalization, featuring the subject prominently on its cover ("Bring Drugs Within The Law," The Economist, 5/15/93, p. 13).

Illegality is not needed to dissuade people from harming themselves or others, the article observes, noting that for alcohol and tobacco, "the idea of dissuasion within the law is broadly accepted." Acknowledging the legitimacy of concerns that legalization would likely increase drug-taking, The Economist emphasizes that "legalization should not be taken to mean a lawless free-for-all, with no restraint on the supply or use of drugs."

Supply could be regulated through licensing and taxation, with varying degrees of dissuasion employed depending on the addictiveness of the drug. Hence marijuana would receive "a light touch" and heroin "an extremely dissuasive one." Lifting prohibition would permit development of less dangerous intoxicants, something currently taboo, despite its logical appeal. The article notes that Italy recently voted to scrap the harshest measures of their drug laws, and that in the U.S., the merits of alternative drug policies are now at least being debated.

In addition to the lead cover story, the May 15 issue ran another story dealing specifically with U.S. drug policy ("Drugs Policy: The Enemy Within," The Economist, 5/15/93, p. 31). Princeton Professor Ethan Nadelmann and Baltimore Kurt Schmoke were cited as proponents of enlightened drug policy.