The Public Interest

Imagining drug legalization

James B. Jacobs

Fall 1990

IT IS REMARKABLE that the debate over drug legalization ebbs and flows without a fleshed-out proposal for what drug legalization means and how it would work.  The absence of such a proposal focuses the debate on the costs and chances for success of the current “drug war” and perhaps of prohibition generally, but not on those of legalization. The lack of a fleshed-out legalization proposal makes it extremely difficult to assess or to criticize the legalization position. Skeptics vainly try to fix their sights on a moving target. Criticisms are brushed aside on the ground that they are based upon a distorted view of drug legalization. Those attuned to the debate are asked to endorse drug legalization “in principle” and to think about implementation later.

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