« "Locking up my generation: Cohort differences in prison spells over the life course" | Main | Making the case for post-secondary education for people in prison »

August 31, 2020

"What We Got Wrong in the War on Drugs"

The title of this post is the title of this notable new paper now available via SSRN authored by Mark Osler. Here is its abstract:

The War on Drugs is effectively over.  Drugs won.  This essay addresses some of the mistakes we made in that futile effort.  Allowing racism to motivate action and impede reform was a primary error.  So was failing to understand that narcotics crime is simply different than other types of criminalized behavior in several fundamental ways. 

In whole, we largely addressed the narcotics trade as a moral failing rather than a market — and never got around to recognizing the size and shape of that market or to using market forces to control it.  Ronald Reagan compared the War on Drugs to the Battle of Verdun, and he was right: fortunes were spent, many lives were lost, and nothing really changed.

August 31, 2020 at 06:38 PM | Permalink


What we got wrong with the War on Drugs was in prohibiting drugs. That decimated the 4th, 5th, 8th, and even a part of the 1st Amendments. All in the name of drugs. The War on Drugs clogged the courts and the prisons, led to the rise of prosecutorial overreach.

The War on Drugs directly led to the resurrection of the medieval concept of Civil Death. The War on Drugs has led to gangs, cartels, mafias, and hundreds of thousands of murders in the US, Mexico, and South America.

The War on Drugs is like the Prohibition of the 1920s, a moralistic, Puritan movement that made some people feel morally superior to all those "druggies."

It was never a good idea. Ever. But it sure made dainty patrician females like Nancy Reagan feel good. And now, we are stuck with an enormous vampire squid of law enforcement Gorgons and layers of blood-thirsty, self-righteous DAa, parole and probation officers, and prison guards' unions, sucking the life out of the country.

And it still didn't work to stave off the desire of humans--a lot of them--to take drugs.

It did make "us" feel morally superior to "them" though. And it did give movie and TV writers a lot of material. So there's that. I guess.

Posted by: restless94110 | Sep 1, 2020 3:54:00 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB