The Future of Drug Policy Reform

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The United States declared a war on drugs decades ago, and to this day there is no clear winner. As marijuana laws have changed in state after state, some people have begun to question the sensibility of our other current drug laws.

Drug policy is tied to many social issues such as prison rates, national security and HIV rates. While not everyone agrees on what to do about drugs, most agree that current drug laws are not effective.

Ethan Nadelmann, the founder and executive director of Drug Policy Alliance, strongly favors decriminalization and treatment programs over incarceration, especially for infractions involving marijuana. He thinks we could save money and lives by treating drug dependence as a health issue and not a criminal one.

“We lock up more people for nonviolent drug offenses in the United States than all of Western Europe locks up people for everything… and they have 100 million more people than we do,” Nadelmann said.

David Frum, a senior editor at The Atlantic and board member of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, takes a much harsher stance against marijuana. He says he believes marijuana is not as benign as it seems, and that it is used most heavily by teens whose brains are still developing.

“Marijuana is a rising product, it is coming back with vengeance and is most attractive to people in their teens,” Frum said. “Laxer drug laws mean more drug use.”

However, both guests agree when it comes to the topic of reform. Nadelmann and Frum both favor alternatives to arrest and sentencing, especially for minor drug offenders.

“I think we should definitely be looking for lighter sentencing and alternatives to arrest. This is a catastrophic event in the life of a young person. People should encounter the law as a friend and protector, and not as an alien force,” Frum said.

Vikrant Reddy, a senior policy analyst from Right on Crime, is a conservative thinker who explained that although traditionally drug reform has been a liberal platform, more and more conservatives are advocating change.

Where do you stand on the topic of drug policy reform? Decide for yourself by listening to the full hour of the show.

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