Assessing Progress in the War on Drugs

By Laura Spadanuta

The United States government’s Office of National Drug Control Policy is opposed to any change in policy. The agency released a statement strongly condemning the report’s decriminalization recommendation, “because illicit drug use is demonstrably harmful to public health. And decriminalization, not to mention legalization, causes the use of illegal drugs to become more prevalent.”

Longmire has warned that legalizing drugs like marijuana won’t necessarily end the cartels and violence in places like Mexico, due to the wide variety of criminal activities the various drug trafficking organizations are involved in. Eliminating the illegal drug trade into America would only take out a portion of their operations.

A recent RAND Corporation report that examined the potential effects of legalizing marijuana in California estimated that only a small portion, 15 to 26 percent, of Mexican drug trafficking organization revenue was garnered from trafficking marijuana into the United States. Longmire says that “it might knock some of the smaller, less efficient players out of the game,” but “it’s definitely not going to end the drug war.”

There is also a question of repercussions that marijuana or drug decriminalization might have on the workplace. Courts in Oregon and Washington have sided with employers in recent lawsuits over marijuana use and its effect on the workplace. However, the issue is far from settled. “It would be particularly problematic for employers at a number of different levels,” according to Eugene Ferraro, CPP, PCI, CEO and president of Business Controls, a security and technology company headquartered in Denver.

Ferraro, who has a background in human resources, says that most state laws would permit testing for marijuana even if the drug becomes legal, under “on the job impairment” and “just cause” or “reasonable suspicion” testing. However, Ferraro says that many states have requirements that employers must provide rehabilitation to individuals who test positive for drugs. If marijuana legalization leads to more employees using the drug, employers might be forced to rehabilitate more people, causing more inconvenience and higher costs. If marijuana were legalized, he says, it’s doubtful “that the states would suddenly go ‘oh yeah, we’ve got to go back and change all of our laws relative to drug testing,’” explains Ferraro.

Experts agree, however, that there is no single answer to the drug problem, emphasizes Longmire. “What people don’t understand is that it’s a global issue, and it’s extremely complex.”


A rational alternative


It is totally unrealistic to assume that the demand for (consumption of) drugs can be stopped and that we can live in a "drugs free world" — as the promoters and supporters of Prohibition and the War on Drugs want us to believe. That's why Legalisation & Regulation is the only rational, efficient and effective alternative to solve the so-called drug problem.

I do happen to believe that drug abuse can have serious, detrimental effects on individuals, families and society as a whole. The question is, however, what is the best way to deal with the so-called drug problem?

I do not think that anybody in their right mind could possibly think that legalisation and regulation is the silver bullet. The main point of contention, instead, is that Legalisation and Regulation —unlike Prohibition and the War on Drugs — is not a zero sum game. It is not a question of abstinence or punishment, but one of rational management of the drug problem, which incidentally, is not just about consumption but production as well. Neither is it about marijuana only, but about all drugs, soft and hard.

If one is prepared to accept, or at least be open to consider, that is not feasible to put an end to the demand for drugs, for there will always be, for whatever reason, people wishing to use drugs, then the question is: what is the most rational, effective and efficient way to tackle the drug problem? Once we accept that no alternative policy is exempt from costs, the rational thing to do is to search for policies that maximises the benefits and minimises the costs.

Put it differently, any rational, responsible and caring individual should be able to understand that a regime seeking to legalise and regulate the production and consumption of drugs CANNOT be as destructive and corrosive — socially, economically and politically speaking — as the current prohibition regime is. Moreover, I am convinced that even those who believe that legalisation and regulation of drugs is evil will be willing to accept that it is the lesser of two evils.

Gart Valenc



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