AGAINST EXCESS by Mark A.R. Kleiman

AGAINST EXCESS

Drug Policy for Results

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A closely reasoned and authoritative analysis of US drug policy. Kleiman (Public Policy/Harvard) states that current policies are ``driven in part by the illusion that a complete solution exists and in part by professional self-seeking and political blather.'' Economic analysis of the war on drugs, he says, shows that seizures only boost demand--more cocaine, for example, must be produced in Colombia to satisfy actual consumption; and the closer to the source the seizures take place, the cheaper the drugs are to replace. Kleiman says that Draconian sentences for dealing actually eliminate any deterrent to violence--under current laws, drug kingpins may fare better shooting witnesses and standing trial for murder rather than for dealing. Decriminalization of drug use is a ``odd hybrid,'' the author adds, one that frees buyers from risk but leaves sales in the hands of criminals--a good design to swell the black market. Moreover, he states, education programs based on the ``Just Say No'' message ignore the fact that most alcohol and marijuana users take drugs only in moderation, suffering no ill effects--an inconsistency quickly perceived by thoughtful teens. Evaluations of these programs and scare/persuasion campaigns, such as the current Media Partnership For a Drug-Free America (substantially financed by alcohol and tobacco advertising revenues), Kleiman explains, show that they actually increase drug abuse. To deal with the drug problem, Kleiman proposes a system of ``grudging toleration'' that would license the use of drugs according to their danger: alcohol and marijuana would be legal; heroin and cocaine would remain illicit. Tobacco, although killing more people annually than all other drugs (including alcohol), would be made illicit, but only gradually, because of the very large number of addicts. Lucid, learned, free of polemic--a must for anyone wishing a clear view of the strident national debate on drug policy.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1992
ISBN: 0-465-02717-2
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1992