Drugs and Violence

72 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2014 Last revised: 4 Nov 2015

See all articles by Shima Baradaran Baughman

Shima Baradaran Baughman

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School

Date Written: March 31, 2014


The war on drugs has increased the United States prison population by tenfold. The foundation for the war on drugs and unparalleled increase in prisoners rely on the premise that drugs and violence are linked. Politicians, media, and scholars continue to advocate this view either explicitly or implicitly. This Article identifies the pervasiveness of this premise, and debunks the link between drugs and violence. It demonstrates that a connection between drugs and violence is not supported by historical arrest data, current research, or independent empirical evidence. That there is little evidence to support the assumption that drugs cause violence is an important insight, because the assumed causal link between drugs and violence forms the foundation of a significant amount of case law, statutes, and commentary. In particular, the presumed connection between drugs and violence has reduced constitutional protections, misled government resources, and resulted in the unnecessary incarceration of a large proportion of non-violent Americans. In short, if drugs do not cause violence — and the empirical evidence discussed in this Article suggests they do not — then America needs to rethink its entire approach to drug policy.

Keywords: drugs, drug policy, violence, violent crime, America, criminal justice, empirical evidence, media, social science, sentencing, prisons, mass incarceration, war on drugs, crime, arrest

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Baughman, Shima Baradaran, Drugs and Violence (March 31, 2014). 88 USC Law Review 227 (2015), University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 75, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2414202

Shima Baradaran Baughman (Contact Author)

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School ( email )

430 JRCB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
United States

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