30 March 2013

Drug policy

In an amazing interview at the Washington Post Wonkblog, Mark A. R. Kleiman succinctly delivers a lot of truth and clear thinking about drug policy.

When I was a kid, my parents would get The New Yorker, and the back cover was always a Johnny Walker Black ad. And they were great ads. Just terrific ads. One of them shows lights in an office building spiraling up. Next to it there’s a picture of Johnny Walker Black. And it says, “As you move up, the work doesn’t get easier, but the rewards get better.”

But another said, “If the difference in price between Black and ordinary scotch matters to you, you’re drinking too much.” And I regard that as the first principle of drug policy. Price matters a lot to people who use a lot, and so it’s a very good way to regulate consumption. So here I am in Washington state, thinking about regulating cannabis, and a big question is how to keep the prices up.

This kind of talk is what gets people like me excited about the neoliberal dream of smart technocrats setting policy ... and frustrated about our political institutions as we actually have them. It's easy to see how a public debate about the kinds of better policies Kleiman is advocating isn't even possible in our Republic as it is now.

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