In his Sunday op-ed piece in the NYT titled “Drugs Won the War” , Kristof joins the growing mass of voices calling for drastic rethinking of our current archaic and ineffective drug policy. He emphasizes three points; the enormous prison population, the empowering of the criminal enterprise and the huge financial cost associated with our failed policy. He voices a need for a “liberalization” of narcotics policy. In his blog, On the Ground, he presents a more concise summary of his viewpoint, in which he admits that he does not know which policies he favors, but that decriminalization and then perhaps legalization and taxation should be explored.
He does mention lack of treatment briefly in discussing the disparity between the funds we spend on interdiction, policing and imprisonment and the money we spend on treatment. He suggests that prevention policy similar to the public health campaigning that we have used with cigarettes should be examined as is proposed by the former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia in their Drugs and Democracy policy paper.
It is great that this is getting coverage in the main stream media. The growing consensus is that a drastic change is needed, yet it is hard not to be cynical about our ability to make meaningful one, just look at the healthcare debate.
I am no expert. This is a tough policy area, and as Jason has frequently mentioned, there is no perfect solution. The options that are most frequently presented seem almost always to emphasize legalization and taxation or decriminalization. Why not more emphasis on treatment, prevention, community building etc…? Let’s start discussing the human costs along with the financial ones.