The Public Interest

The case for legalization

Ethan A. Nadelmann

Summer 1988

WHAT CAN BE DONE about the “drug problem”? Despite frequent proclamations of war and dramatic increases in government funding and resources in recent years, there are many indications that the problem is not going away and may even be growing worse. During the past year alone, more than thirty million Americans violated the drug laws on literally billions of occasions. Drug-treatment programs in many cities are turning people away for lack of space and funding. In Washington, D.C., drug-related killings, largely of one drug dealer by another, are held responsible for a doubling in the homicide rate over the past year. In New York and elsewhere, courts and prisons are clogged with a virtually limitless supply of drug-law violators.  In large cities and small towns alike, corruption of policemen and other criminal-justice officials by drug traffickers is rampant.

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