Jefferson M Fish Ph.D.

Looking in the Cultural Mirror


Questioning Assumptions Underlying the War on Drugs

We need to aim at shrinking the black market created by drug prohibition

Posted Feb 19, 2013

Interview with a drug-related offense probationer

Here is a brief list of the issues discussed and conclusions reached in the article:

1. Rather than attacking drugs as the cause of crime, corruption, and disease, policy should be aimed at attacking the black market caused by drug prohibition, because it is the black market that causes crime, corruption, and disease.

2. Rather than debating whether or not to legalize marijuana or other substances, we should debate how to go about doing so. There are many degrees and forms of legalization to choose from.

For those who are interested, here are three works that discuss a wide range of drug policy options that go beyond the discussion in the article:

Fish, J. M. (Ed.) (1998). How to legalize drugs. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson. ISBN: 0-7657-0151-0

Fish, J. M. (Ed.) (2000). Is our drug policy effective? Are there alternatives? New York City, NY: Fordham Urban Law Journal. (Proceedings of the March 17 & 18, 2000 joint conference of the New York Academy of Sciences, New York Academy of Medicine, and Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Vol. 23, No. 1, pp. 3-262.)

Fish, J. M. (Ed.) (2006). Drugs and society: U. S. public policy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN: 0-7425-4244-0 (cloth); ISBN: 0-7425-4245-9 (paperback).

3. Rather than punish or marginalize people who abuse illegal substances, we should attempt to reintegrate them into society, just as we do with people who abuse alcohol 

4. Rather than the coercive treatment of drug courts (offering a choice between “therapy” or prison)--which undermines the voluntary nature of therapy, confidentiality, and the therapeutic relationship--we should offer treatment on demand to people who seek help for their drug problems.

Image Source:

A Probation and Parole Officer with the Missouri Department of Corrections interviews a drug-related offense probationer.

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