Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Part VII: The Crime Report examines drug policy

This is the seventh in a regular series of posts derived from Ted Gest's article Crime and Justice Trends in America: How We Got Here; Where We Go Next on cutting edge evidence-based crime fighting practices posted at The Crime Report.

Drug Policy--Peter Reuter, University of Maryland.

The U.S. has the western world's worst drug problem, even though the problem has declined overall in the last decade, Reuter said.

Too many addicts are unable to get treatment, and the treatment that they do get is not of good quality. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to incarcerate many drug users. The presidents of Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico, all of which have been severely harmed by drug related violence fueled by the American drug market, have said it is worth considering the legalization of drugs in their countries.

There are many good arguments for legalization in the U.S., but is not clear whether legalizing drugs would benefit the nation overall; in any case, a 2010 Gallup poll 2010 found fewer than 10 percent of respondents favoring legalization of cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, or methamphetamine.

The concept that drug addiction is a brain disease is gaining support, and it is a credible basis for sending criminally active addicts to treatment rather than the criminal justice system.

Attitudes toward marijuana have changed substantially in the last four decades as tracked by Gallup. The percentage of the public favoring legalization of the drug rose sharply from 1995 (25 percent) to 2012 (50 percent). This may reflect the fact that a number of states allowed medical use of marijuana. In 2010 a poorly formulated California initiative got 46.5 percent of the vote.

This year, better-constructed initiatives are going to voters in Colorado and Washington.

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