The war on drugs must continue, agree an FBI official, a Mexican drug enforcement official and a Princeton political science professor. But the professor has a new strategy for fighting the war - making drugs legal.
Ethan A. Nadelmann proposes to legalize marijuana, make heroin maintenance available to addicts and at least consider legalizing cocaine. Drugs should be treated as a health issue, he says.Nadelmann's arguments drew fire from Oliver B. Revell, FBI executive assistant director for investigations, and Manuel Mondragon y Kalb, social participation coordinator for the Mexican attorney general's office, when the three spoke Wednesday to the Inter American Press Association in Salt Lake City.
Nadelmann said current drug enforcement policies are not only ineffective but costly and counterproductive. He said the organized crime, corruption and violence surrounding drug traffic are often seen as part of the drug problem, but "those are the results of drug prohibition laws."
And he challenged the assumption that making drugs legal will dramatically increase abuse.
Nadelmann also said allowing legal access to alcohol and tobacco but not marijuana and cocaine is not morally consistent.
He said Mormons have a coherent moral principle of opposing consumption of any consciousness-altering substance, from marijuana, cocaine and heroin to tobacco, alcohol and coffee. "And some of them even say chocolate. That's a coherent moral principle."
Revell said law enforcement is not the total solution to the drug problem - education, rehabilitation and treatment are at least as important. Marijuana and cocaine consumption are already dropping as a result of education.
But that does not mean enforcement efforts should be abandoned, he said. Representatives of the black community told him last week that legalization would mean the racial genocide of a generation.
"I think we are making progress on the total strategy of drug enforcement and drug treatment and drug education," the FBI official said. "I, for one, do not believe that we should sacrifice a generation of young Americans to a social experiment."
Mondragon also opposed legalization, saying it might reduce some enforcement costs, but other expenses, such as treatment and rehabilitation, would skyrocket.
He predicted consumption would rise rapidly, along with related physical, emotional, social and productivity problems.
And he questioned whether legalization would reduce crime, since Nadelmann's plan would heavily tax consumption, and black markets would arise to get around taxes as well as to market more potent varieties of drugs.