Professors of Economics Gary S. Becker and Kevin M. Murphy put forward the argument for ending modern prohibition from an economic point of view.
President Richard Nixon declared a “war on drugs” in 1971. The expectation then was that drug trafficking in the United States could be greatly reduced in a short time through federal policing—and yet the war on drugs continues to this day. The cost has been large in terms of lives, money and the well-being of many Americans, especially the poor and less educated. By most accounts, the gains from the war have been modest at best.
The article, published online on the Wall Street Journal on 4 January, discusses the direct monetary cost to American taxpayers and how prohibition stifles attempts to rehabilitate users of the most addictive substances, such as crack-cocaine and heroin.
Becker and Murphy argue that decriminalisation would lead to better access to support and treatment for addicts, which subsequently leads to a reduction in the harms associated with drug use, such as infectious diseases.
Certainly this is what has been observed in other countries that have implemented harm-reduction policies. For example decriminalisation, needle exchange and the offering of rehabilitation in Switzerland preceded a 50% drop in drug-related deaths and an 80% reduction in drug-related HIV infections.
If you would like to know more about what can really be done to reduce the harms associated with drug supply and use, visit our dedicated policy website, reformdrugpolicy.com.