Is it time to end the war on drugs?

The White House’s “czar” on drugs has proposed an end to the “war on drugs.

Gil Kerlikowske, a former police chief in Seattle, suggests the Obama administration will pursue a policy of treatment rather than incarceration. He doesn’t have the power to enact such a change; he’ll have to work with a Congress that doesn’t much cotton to running against a barrage of “soft on crime” opposition ads.

It’s a gamble, obviously. Appearing on Daily Show last night, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, noted that the evils perpetrated by the Taliban, come from the fruit of the poppy — heroin.

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There is a cost to this, documented by the War on Drugs Clock Web site. Nearly two million are arrested on drug violations a year. But many people argue the war has been lost.

Is it possible to eliminate a demand only through treatment?


  • tiredboomer

    What we’ve been doing (throw away the key if you’re poor and in possession) isn’t working.

  • Jason Samuels

    I would say it’s not possible to eliminate demand only through treatment. But it’s also true that criminalization has failed to eliminate demand. So the question should really be what strategies are most effective at reducing demand, and do they depend on the continuation of outright prohibition? If the answer to the latter part is no, then perhaps it is time to end the “war” and re-allocate resources away from costly law enforcement efforts.

  • bsimon

    The question we should be asking is: what’s the higher cost to society? What’s the return on investment for the ‘war on drugs’ vs. de-criminalizing some drugs and focusing on treatment instead?

  • Elizabeth T

    This is exacerbated by mandatory sentencing guidelines which do not well represent the reality of crimes, especially with regards to misdemeanor possession or possession of things which society, in general, doesn’t find so abhorent (i.e., pot).

    As well as the 3-strikes-you’re-on-the-taxpayer’s-pocket-forever rules.

    We set ourselves up for failure, and then don’t bother to check to see if we’re succeeding?

    We need a No Felon Left Behind law, to see if our prison system is actually succeeding in reforming Jane Doe for being caught in possession.