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Washington Monthly Analysis Calls for "Middle Ground" Drug Policy


November 1995

Writer Joshua Shenk makes an argument for drug legalization in a recent article for Washington Monthly (Joshua Wolf Shenk, "Why You Can Hate Drugs and Still Want to Legalize Them," The Washington Monthly, October 1995, p. 32-40).

Shenk presents the dilemma of the drug problem -- policymakers want to prevent people from becoming drug addicts but also want to end drug trade violence. He suggests that a legal market for now-illegal drugs with tight regulations would solve many problems related to our current policies.

Shenk covers many problems with current drug policies: children who become involved in the drug trade, the economics of prohibition, the effect of the drug trade on impoverished communities, increasing levels of imprisonment, growing incidents of police corruption, lack of treatment facilities, the refusal of the Clinton administration to lift the ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs, and the problems associated with tobacco and alcohol.

Ultimately drug policy does come down to tradeoffs. The simple truth is that humans are tempted by intoxicants. And, in a free society like ours, the rights of life and liberty will always be accompanied by people pursuing stiff drinks, or lines of cocaine, or marijuana cigarettes. ... Now we know that the enormous efforts in law enforcement have yielded few benefits in curbing drug abuse -- and are a paltry disincentive for many drug users and would-be drug users. The prohibition experiment has failed.