“The Harmful Side Effects of Drug Prohibition”

There are so many reasons why drug prohibition is objectionable, it is hard to enumerate them all. In my Utah Law Review article, The Harmful Side Effects of Drug Prohibition, I try to systematically survey just the “consequentialist” arguments against this socially-destructive social policy. If I were to revise this article today, I suppose I would emphasize even more than I did how destructive the “War on Drugs” has been to the black community, perhaps especially because of the incarceration of thousands of black men, depriving their children of fathers, but also because of how the black market profits from the illicit drug trade supports the gang structure that preys upon the community and sucks up its kids. Then there is the differential enforcement of drug laws in minority communities. And I would emphasize how the abnormal profits to be made from black market drugs is systematically destroying the entire political culture of Mexico. All this to stop some people from getting high.

But, as I said, the problem with assessing the War on Drugs is that there are so many harmful “side effects” of drug prohibition that it is difficult even to know where to begin. This article is my effort to be as comprehensive about these effects, yet still be accessible. Here is the abstract:

The Harmful Side Effects of Drug Prohibition,” by Randy Barnett, The Volokh Conspiracy, May 18, 2012

Prohibition didn’t work in the 1920s and 30s, and it isn’t working today.

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