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, the authors 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 the authors believe that it can serve a useful heuristic role in promoting more constructive debate and identifying fruitful questions for research.
Originally published in: Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, v. 15, no. 3, Summer 1996, pp. 330-352.
This report is part of the RAND reprint series. The Reprint was a product of RAND from 1992 to 2011 that represented previously published journal articles, book chapters, and reports with the permission of the publisher. RAND reprints were formally reviewed in accordance with the publisher's editorial policy and compliant with RAND's rigorous quality assurance standards for quality and objectivity. For select current RAND journal articles, see External Publications.
This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit www.rand.org/pubs/permissions.
RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.