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Big thinkers advocating for an end to the war on drugs

What would Wisconsin look like if drugs were decriminalized? What would the United States or the rest of the world look like? For decades, proponents of increasingly strict anti-drug laws have been warning that the decriminalization of drugs would essentially lead to the downfall of society.

Their argument is largely based on the premise that decriminalizing drugs is a de facto endorsement of drug use. In reality, this is not the case. Rather, critics of current anti-drug laws argue that America’s war on drugs has been far too costly and ruined far too many lives. Moreover, it has been a colossal failure. Drug crimes and rates of use have not declined significantly over time. In some cases, they have gone up.

These are among the many arguments made in a recently published report by the London School of Economics’ IDEAS center. The report is titled “Ending the Drug Wars,” and it has been endorsed by some very smart people, including five previous winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics.

The report notes that the war on drugs has resulted in “enormous negative outcomes and collateral damage” globally in the same way that it has in the United States. From the report: “These include mass incarceration in the US, highly repressive policies in Asia, vast corruption and political destabilization in Afghanistan and West Africa, immense violence in Latin America, an HIV epidemic in Russia, an acute global shortage of pain medication and the propagation of systematic human rights abuses around the world.”

It is important to note that being critical of current anti-drug laws is not the same thing as endorsing drug use. There are plenty of Americans who believe that drug use is immoral and dangerous but do not believe that criminal punishment is an appropriate or effective response.

The report recommends replacing current drug policies that focus on prosecution and incarceration with ones that instead focus on harm reduction and chemical dependency treatment. These strategies are already being implemented in certain parts of the U.S. with “Good Samaritan” laws that allow individuals to report potentially fatal drug overdoses without fear of prosecution. Such policies have also led to wider availability of Naloxone, which is a drug that very effectively treats opioid/opiate drug overdoses.

Some of the brightest minds in America and around the world are advocating for the end of the war on drugs. Hopefully, their ideas will be heard and listened to.

Source: The Huffington Post, "End The War On Drugs, Say Nobel Prize-Winning Economists," Matt Ferner, May 7, 2014

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