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Commonsense Drug Policy

NCJ Number
Foreign Affairs Volume: 77 Issue: 1 Dated: January/February 1998 Pages: 111-126
Ethan A. Nadelmann
Date Published
16 pages
Drug policy in the United States is currently based on fear, prejudice, and ignorance; what is needed is a policy based on common sense, science, public health concerns, and human rights; this is possible in the United States if Americans are willing to learn from the experiences of other countries where such policies are emerging.
The lessons from Europe and Australia are compelling. Drug- control policies should focus on reducing drug-related crime, disease, and death, not the number of casual drug users. Stopping the spread of HIV by and among drug users by making sterile syringes and methadone readily available must be the first priority. American politicians need to explore, not ignore or automatically condemn, promising policy options such as cannabis decriminalization, heroin prescription, and the integration of harm-reduction principles into community policing strategies. Central governments must back, or at least not hinder, the efforts of municipal officials and citizens to devise pragmatic approaches to local drug problems. Like citizens in Europe, the American public has supported such innovations when they are adequately explained and allowed to prove themselves. As the evidence is collected, what works is increasingly apparent. All that remains is mustering the political courage to implement common-sense drug policies.


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