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Assessing alternative drug control regimes

Robert MacCoun, Peter Reuter and Thomas Schelling
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Robert MacCoun: Graduate School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California, Postal: Graduate School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California
Peter Reuter: School of Public Affairs and Department of Criminology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, Postal: School of Public Affairs and Department of Criminology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland

Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 1996, vol. 15, issue 3, 330-352

Abstract: The debate over alternative regimes for currently illicit psychoactive substances focuses on polar alternatives: harsh prohibition and sweeping legalization. This study presents an array of alternatives that lies between these extremes. The current debate lacks an explicit and inclusive framework for making comparative judgments. In this study, we sketch out such a framework, as a reminder of possible policy levers and their costs and benefits that might otherwise be neglected or go unrecognized. The framework identifies a range of pharmacological and economic characteristics of substances, potential harms and their bearers, and the sources of those harms, including drug use, trafficking, law enforcement, and illegal status per se. The framework highlights the difficulty of making objective, rigorous comparisons among regimes, but we believe that it can serve a useful heuristic role in promoting more constructive debate and identifying fruitful questions for research.

Date: 1996
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