The Search for Rational Drug Control

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This book presents a comprehensive examination of the drug control policy process in the United States. How are policy choices identified, debated, and selected? How are the consequences of governmental policy measured and evaluated? How, if at all, do we learn from our mistakes? The first part of the book deals with four different ways of understanding drug policy in the United States. Chapter 1 examines drug control as ideology; Chapter 2 discusses the issues of definition and measurement; Chapter 3 provides a historical analysis of drug control; and Chapter 4 concerns drug control as an occasion for debating the proper role of the criminal law. Part Two provides a foundation for an improved policy process by discussing priority problems for drug control. Chapter 5 shows how the protection of children and youth should shape policy toward illicit drugs, with attention to the fact that youth protection objectives may properly limit the effectiveness of some drug controls. Chapter 6 explores the central but complex relationship between illicit drugs and predatory crime. Chapter 7 addresses the proper role of the federal government in drug control policy. A final chapter criticizes the current national drug control strategy and makes five suggestions for improving the drug control policy process.
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Editorial Reviews

James A. Inciardi
The central thesis of THE SEARCH FOR RATIONAL DRUG CONTROL is that the drug policy process in the United States is permeated with ideology, impervious to the lessons of history, and addicted to debating polar abstractions, such as decriminalization, rather than focusing on practical alternatives to current policy. Given this stated backdrop, the authors -- Franklin M. Zimring and Gordon Hawkins, both of the Earl Warren Legal Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, and highly respected in their field -- state that the aim of their treatise is to improve the way in which government officials think, talk, and act in the area of drug control. They argue that a rational drug control policy depends on a sensible policy process, and they point to areas in which the current process is far from satisfactory. To accomplish their aim, the book's eight clearly-written chapters examine such diverse things as the White House's NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL STRATEGY, the definitions of drugs and addiction, prohibition and the lessons of history, the drug legalization/decriminalization debate, the relationships between illicit drug use and street crime, issues related to children and drugs, and the federal role in the policy process. This work is genuine scholarship, and its prepublication endorsements and testimonials from respected scholars are both numerous and emphatic. Having said that, I would argue that it is highly unlikely that THE SEARCH FOR RATIONAL DRUG CONTROL will influence, no less be thoroughly read, by its intended audience. And further, while the authors clearly understand the policy-making process, it would appear that they have little understanding of the drug problem in America. The book opens with a harsh critique of the first NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL STRATEGY, a document prepared by our nation's first "drug czar" and released in 1989. It is a justifiably disparaging review of the document, but the critique is presented in a manner that will serve only to annoy the very policy makers the authors hope to educate. More importantly, however, the authors attribute far too much importance to the first NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL STRATEGY. The document was published more than three years ago, when William Bennett was at the helm of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Since then, the "strategy" report has undergone three alterations and modifications; its authorship has changed, and the agency from whence it came has lost its influence and importance in drug policy affairs. As such, a critique of the 1989 version of the NATIONAL DRUG CONTROL STRATEGY is anything but timely. Besides, the criticisms offered by Zimring and Hawkins have been heard before, over and over, in both the professional literature and the media for the last few years. The major shortcoming of the work is that little appears in THE SEARCH FOR RATIONAL DRUG CONTROL that hasn't been said already. The discussions of "what is a drug?" and the definitions of "addiction" and "the drug problem" appear to be a throwback to social science deliberations of the 1960s, when academic sociologists split hairs over the differences between "drug abuse" and "illicit drug use." Although the exchanges were interesting, they were (and remain) of little theoretical or practical value. Other discussions in THE SEARCH FOR RATIONAL DRUG CONTROL that already have appeared throughout the drug policy literature of the past half decade include the lessons of Prohibition, the elusive relationships between drug use and street crime, and John Stuart Mill's essay ON LIBERTY as it relates to the drug decriminalization/legalization debate. Shifting to an alternative point, there are numerous indications in this book that the authors have a limited understanding of the levels of human suffering associated with drug abuse, and the culture of hopelessness that leads so many inner city residents into careers in addiction. To Page 173 follows: cite an example, they quickly dismiss the argument that there is something "different" about crack-cocaine as a drug of abuse. Yet crack is different in many ways. It is an especially problematic drug because of its peculiar pharmacological and sociocultural effects. Briefly, because crack makes its users ecstatic and yet is so short-acting, it has an extremely high addiction potential. Use rapidly becomes compulsive use. Crack acquisition and use thus become enormously more important than family, work, social responsibility, health, values, modesty, morality, or self respect. The suffering associated with crack use, especially among women, is unprecedented in the annals of the American drug scene. Given the tone of this review, one may find it strange that I agree with much of what the authors have to say. And if readers are wondering why I have been so critical of such an eloquently written book, it is because analyses of drug policy must transcend intellectual exercise to offer practical alternatives. This book meticulously takes us through how policy choices are identified, debated and selected, and offers a foundation for an improved policy-making process. But it goes no further. As such, it offers abstract models for a target audience (policy makers) that has been trained to deal in only the concrete and pragmatic.
From the Publisher
"This volume, as its title indicates, is a serious effort to point the way to moderation." Journal of Criminal Justice

"An important book on how to think about drug policy in the United States. Zimring and Hawkins challenge conventional thinking about drugs and demonstrate how understanding our past failures can guide us." Albert J. Reiss, Jr., Yale University

"Zimring and Hawkins put aside the false promises of our successive and futile 'war on drugs', as well as the mischievous simplicities of an ill-defined 'legalisation', and produce the first practical and achievable strategy to minimise the harm to individuals and to society from hard drugs and our criminogenic drug laws. Probing and practical, it is a joy to read." Norval Morris, University of Chicago

"Zimring and Hawkins put aside the false promises of our successive and futile 'war on drugs', as well as the mischievous simplicities of an ill-defined 'legalisation', and produce the first practical and achievable strategy to minimise the harm to individuals and to society from hard drugs and our criminogenic drug laws. Probing and practical, it is a joy to read." Norval Morris, University of Chicago

"So far as it goes, their program makes good sense. they would like to see more spent on helping pregnant women who use drugs and on intravenous drug users who have, or may develop, AIDS. And, rather than stigmatize addicts by imposing criminal penalties, they would like the government to pursue an 'open-door policy' in which hard-core users are encouraged to seek treatment. As for William Bennett, Zimring and Hawkins deplore his tendency to turn 'every public pronouncement into a rhetorical event.' With characteristic understatement, they suggest that Bennett's successor be a 'somewhat less gifted rhetorician.'" Michael Massing, New York Review of Books

"The authors (academics who have previously written fine books together on pornography, imprisonment and capital punishment) promote program budgeting for drug control....Their approach is rational, all right, and proffered with awesome historical and philosophical erudition. From the book's early chapters come valuable glimpses of the multiple prohibitions in American social history--state alcohol prohibition statutes in the 1850s, the criminalization of marijuana starting in the 1920s--and excerpts from commentators on this subject, from John Stuart Mill to Gore Vidal." Diana R. Gordon, The Nation

"This new book provides a thoughtful critique of the lacuna in federal drug policy formulation, as well as a host of other insights....this is a book that will engage and inform most readers. Perhaps it will also help prepare the nation for a more intellectually serious discussion of the proper stance to take on dependency-creating psychoactives." Peter Reuter, Health Affairs

"Zimring and Hawkins offer a devastating critique of the premises and tactics of U.S. antidrug policy...The critical aspects of this book are its strength and are required reading for scholars in this area." American Political Science Review

"Zimring and Hawkins offer a devastating critique of the premises and tactics of U.S. antidrug policy...The critical aspects of this book are its strength and are required reading for scholars in this area." American Political Science Review

"This book provides a good, rational evaluation of the current drug policy in the United States. The authors logically and scientifically assess the current drug policy, concluding that it is based more on fear and unknowns than on any research or rational processes....Overall, the book is well-written. The chapters are well-organized and demonstrate excellent scholarship and research in the process of comprehensive policy evaluation. They proide good criteria for comparison, and break the drug problem into specific issues rather than one global issue. As its title suggests, this book would be seminal to anyone seriously interested in rational drug control." International Journal of Contemporary Sociology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521558822
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2002
  • Series: Earl Warren Legal Institute Study Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 219
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Table of Contents

List of tables and figures
Pt. 1 The drug problem
Introduction 3
1 Ideology and policy: A look at the National Drug Control Strategy 4
2 What is a drug? And other basic issues 22
3 Prohibitions and the lessons of history 45
4 The wrong question: Critical notes on the decriminalization debate 82
Pt. 2 The drug control policy process
Introduction 113
5 The universal proposition: Children and drug control policy 115
6 Drug control policy and street crime 137
7 The federal role in a national drug strategy 158
8 Memorandum to a new drug czar 177
Appendix: Estimates of illicit drug use--a survey of methods 193
References 204
Index 213
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