Drug Policy Forum of Texas
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False Claims of "Success"


Drug War Defined

Failure to Stop Supply

Failure of Prisons

Measuring Results

Figures for

Texas News


Laws and Punishment Do Not Deter Drug Use or Abuse 

The normal assumption is that laws do inhibit. This is a generally false assumption where drugs are concerned. 

 "The licit or illicit status of substances has little impact on their use." 

-- Canada's House of Commons, Special Committee on Non-Medical Use of Drugs, report issued November, 2002 

So many millions violate the law with impunity that the most basic need for effective deterrence - "the certainty of punishment" - was not, and never could be, in place. The number who have ever used an illegal drug now approaches 100 million and our prisons began to overflow when only a million or so were incarcerated. 

Even many top officials have consistently told us that, "We cannot arrest our way out of the problem." Unfortunately, action has not matched the rhetoric. 

"The total punishment levied for drug control purposes has increased massively since 1981, when concern with cocaine became prominent. The number of commitments to state and federal prison has risen over tenfold during the same time period. By 1996, there were over 400,000 people in prison or jail serving time for selling or using drugs; the comparable figure for 1980 was about 31,000. Arrests for simple marijuana possession have doubled in the last five years." 

-- Drug War Heresies by Peter Reuter and Robert MacCoun 

The drug war has provided ample opportunity for us to look at various levels of punishment between different states and between the different countries. 

When the White House ordered an analysis, the little known conclusion in "Informing America's Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don't Know Keeps Hurting Us" (2001) by the National Research Council was clear: 

" Existing research seems to indicate that there is little apparent relationship between severity of sanctions prescribed for drug use and prevalence or frequency of use. 

Perceived legal risk explains very little in the variance of individual drug use."

Independent experts have tried to make the point for decades with little success: 

"We find that the severity of penalties plays little or no role in controlling whether or not people prone to using drugs actually use them. This disregard for the law is truly remarkable." 

-- Dr. Michael S. Gazzaniga, interviewed by National Review, 7-10-95


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