Robert MacCoun

Recent Articles

Cocaine, Marijuana, and Heroin

W hat would actually happen if drugs were legalized in America? For the last decade advocates of such a course, though politically weak, have dominated the intellectual debate for the simple reason that their criticism of existing policy holds a great deal of truth. The most conspicuous harms associated with drugs nowadays -- violent crime, public disorder, government corruption, and diseases related to injection with dirty needles -- are caused in large part by the country's prohibition policies. But it's quite a leap from this critique to the conclusion that the best way to eliminate harms is to eliminate prohibition; the story is far more complicated. A decade of study presented in our book, Drug War Heresies: Learning from Other Vices, Times, and Places has convinced us that legalization of cocaine, marijuana, and heroin would lead to large reductions in drug-related crime and mortality, but also to large increases in drug use and addiction. Poor urban minority communities, which...