I’ve spent the morning looking over the Transform Drug Policy Foundation’s consultation paper, A Comparison of the Cost-Effectiveness of the Prohibition and Regulation of Drugs, which was published today. The full report is available as a .pdf here (note the filesize – at 445k, it’s HUGE) – or there’s a summary on Transform’s blog, here.
The rather plain title of the document belies its content: it’s well worth a read, and is fairly fizzing with righteous indignation:
Current approaches ignore the basic finding that the policy of prohibition itself is the direct source of what is perceived as ‘the drug problem‘ – specifically the vast majority of drug-related crime – rather than drug use per se. The Government has also repeatedly failed to acknowledge that prohibition is a policy choice, not a fixed feature of the policy landscape that must be worked within, or around.
The political context of these analytical shortcomings cannot be ignored. Whether it is an ideological commitment to prohibition, investment in populist drug war posturing, or fear of the domestic and international policy implications of questioning the status quo, there are clearly substantial obstacles to mainstream policy makers moving forward on this issue that have nothing to do with rational policy analysis and debate. (p8)
I’ve blogged on a similar theme before, and my natural instincts are to agree with a lot of Transform’s document. Whether or not you agree with Transform, though, it does seem that there’s a good reason to take a long, hard look at current drugs policy. Prohibition might, in the end, turn out to be the best policy. But, at least at first glance, it doesn’t seem to work all that well, and there are probably probing questions that are worth asking. We shouldn’t be accepting prohibition on faith.