The Economist has always been better than most on drug policy, and this piece – Illegal Drugs: The Great Experiment – is really outstanding.
The Economist has long argued that prohibition is illiberal in principle and harmful in practice, and that the least-bad way of dealing with drugs is to legalise and regulate their production and consumption. But we recognise that it takes a brave politician to face down the moral panic that surrounds the issue. This new thinking, though limited, is therefore welcome. Legalising consumption allows drug use and addiction (by no means the same thing) to be treated as the public-health issues they are. That in turn means applying the principle of harm reduction, for example by providing clean needles to addicts to prevent the spread of HIV.
But decriminalising consumption does nothing to break the grip of gangsters over the drug business. For that to happen, production and distribution also need to be legalised. That is why the experiment under way in the United States is so important. Colorado and Washington now have the chance to create a legal but regulated market in marijuana, similar to those for tobacco or alcohol.
One immediate consequence is that the United States will be in breach of the UN Convention. Good. It should now join Latin American governments in an effort to reform that outdated document to allow signatories room to experiment. Imposing a failed policy on everybody benefits nobody.
Read the whole thing.