By German Lopez for Vox. Earlier this year, one of the world’s leading drug policy experts started an insightful, new paper in a very strange way, writing, “This paper is wrong. I hope it is nonetheless useful.”
Jon Caulkins, of Carnegie Mellon University, immediately acknowledged that he was trying to predict the future. But this was necessary. After all, he was trying to tackle a question that’s at the heart of drug policy today: How, exactly, will the war on drugsend, if all the doomsayers are right?
By now, everyone who remotely follows drug policy has heard the refrain: The war on drugs is doomed. It’s been called a failure time and time again — by liberals like Bernie Sanders and conservatives like Chris Christie. It’s been blamed for mass incarceration, gun violence, and chaos around the world. Prominent billionaires have thrown their weight behind ending the war on drugs. Even America’s drug czar, arguably the world’s leader in the war on drugs, has characterized the “old war on drugs” as “failed policies and failed practices” of the past.
But it’s hard to imagine moving from a world where drugs are totally illegal to one where some form of cocaine or opium is available for recreational use at your local CVS. And it’s harder to imagine just about any major US politician advocating for moving in that direction.