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Op-Ed

Prohibition's real lessons for drug policy

Despite the 'failure' of Prohibition, there's little reason to believe that the benefits of drug legalization would outweigh its costs.

October 05, 2011|By Kevin A. Sabet

But that doesn't mean that we need to be severe and punitive in our drug enforcement either. People in recovery from alcohol and other drug addictions should be entitled to social benefits, including access to education, housing and employment opportunities, despite their past drug use. We should think seriously about the rationale and effectiveness of imposing harsh mandatory minimum sentences for simple drug possession. And no one can credibly argue that we have enough treatment slots for everyone who needs them, or that we have an adequate supply of evidence-based drug prevention for every school kid regardless of economic background. Indeed, our current drug policy leaves something to be desired, and like most policies, it needs constant refinement.

Still, it is wrongheaded to think that the only choices we have in drug policy are a punitive approach centered exclusively on enforcement, or one based on careless legalization. Neither has ever worked particularly well.

Kevin A. Sabet stepped down last month as senior policy advisor to President Obama's drug czar. He currently is a consultant and a fellow at the Center for Substance Abuse Solutions at the University of Pennsylvania. http://www.kevinsabet.com

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