Who benefits from the so-called 'war on drugs'? American expert Ethan Nadelmann argues the only people who benefit are organised criminals and the law enforcement system. He explained his thoughts on Breakfast...
According to Ethan Nadelmann from the American organisation Drug Policy Action, the so-called 'war on drugs' isn't working. But that shouldn't mean we give up. He argues it means we should look at other strategies.
Nadelmann told Adam Spencer he believes there's a worldwide "absence of any willingness to look at the serious alternatives...to look at things that might work better but might not sound tough."
And he goes further to suggest that the only people who benefit from the tough stance on drugs in Australia, America and other countries is the law enforcement establishment and organised crime.
"Over the last 40 years, what have you seen? On the one hand, the organised criminals...sometimes they're tied in deeply with governments, sometimes they're not, and they just get bigger and bigger and tougher and tougher...then, on the other hand, the amount of money and the proportion of government budgets and taxpayer money going for law enforcement continues to go up and up and up and up," he said.
And it's this system that raises the question - who is actually benefiting?
According to Nadelmann, the people who should be, are not.
"Drugs are still widely available...so it seems to me that the last people benefiting from the current drug policy are the ninety to ninety five per cent of the people here who don't need a drug law to keep from becoming a drug addict..."
When it comes to so called recreational drugs, Nadelmann believes the strongest argument exists to decriminalise marijuana, "we should be treating it a hell of a lot more like alcohol", he says.
While he acknowledges that cannabis can lead to mental illness in some users, he says it's not as dangerous as alcohol.
"There's never been a marijuana overdose, the vast majority of people who use mariijuana don't get addicted to the thing [and] among the people who do get addicted...it's far less dangerous than alcohol."
But his overall message is 'different models for different drugs'. While he's an advocate of treating marijuana like alcohol, he says the same doesn't apply to other drugs.
"I think with the other drugs you need to find ways to allow addicts to obtain their drugs from legal sources...you need to treat addiction as a health issue...but I think as a matter of good policy and morality we have to reduce our reliance on criminalisation and the criminal justice system and drug control as much as possible, consistent with public safety and public health".
24 November, 2010