Purchase Print Copy

 FormatList Price
Add to Cart Paperback32 pages Free

The effort to control illicit drugs seems to have become a permanent element of American social policy in the last third of the twentieth century. A large fraction of adolescents experiment with illicit drugs, primarily marijuana. Most do no more than experiment, but enough go on to consume them frequently that drug use and selling, as well as drug control itself, have become a major source of harm to the nation. These harms, particularly the ones related to crime, are heavily concentrated in urban minority communities. Cross-national comparisons of social policy are fraught with problems. Nonetheless, we draw four lessons: depenalization, prevalence of use, goals of drug policy, and the role of government. As currently implemented, U.S. drug policies are unconvincing. They are intrusive, divisive, expensive, and yet they leave the nation with a massive drug problem.

Originally published in: The Handbook of Crime and Punishment, Michael Tonry, ed., 1998, pp. 207-238.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Reprint series. The Reprint was a product of the RAND Corporation 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.

The RAND Corporation 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.