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Drug Prohibition Has Failed (Economist)

Author: Skruff
Sunday, August 5, 2001
Influential business journal The Economist called for all drugs to be fully legalised this week suggesting that the 'war on drugs' has failed. "When, 80 years ago, America prohibited the sale of alcohol, it imposed a milder policy than it currently applies to drugs, since people were allowed to possess alcohol for home use," the Economist pointed out.

"Yet the 13 year experiment showed how easily a ban could distort and corrupt law enforcement officials, encourage the emergence of gangs and the spread of crime, erode civil liberties and endanger public health by making it impossible to regulate the quality of a widely consumed product. The drugs war has achieved all these things but since the business is global, it has done so on an international scale."

The 16 page special report provided one of the first serious examinations of the consequences of legalisation and concluded that though drug use would almost certainly rise, other effects could include large tax revenues. "If cocaine were legal the price would be about a 20th of its current street level," LA drug policy expert Mark Keliman said. "As for legal cannabis, it would cost as much as tea." The massive drop in price would reflect the true costs of producing the drugs and would allow governments to dramatically undercut illicit suppliers while still raising significant new tax revenues. The greatest benefit though would be the reduction in harm including the 'collateral damage' caused by law enforcement, particularly in the States.

90% of US cities with populations over 50,000 now maintain local SWAT teams; heavily armed paramilitary police units behind many of the country's 1.5 million annual drug busts. "Many of those arrested receive mandatory minimum sentences of five to ten years for possession of a few grams of drugs, a dire punishment rushed through Congress in 1986 amid hysteria about crack cocaine," the Economist reported.

America's Gulag-style prison system also remains brutal, the Economist added, quoting a recent report by the Human Rights Watch which revealed that 20% of US prisoners are victims of 'forcible sex'. Levels of HIV infection amongst convicts are also extremely high, further escalating the consequences for men attacked in prison. (Illinois State Journal Register)
"> (The Economist editorial: "Time for a Puff of Sanity") (Illinois State Journal Register)