58 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2017
Date Written: August 1, 2016
After enjoying nearly universal support from elected officials for decades, the war on drugs is under attack. Prominent politicians from across the ideological spectrum have started to call for an “end to the war on drugs.” New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie pledged to “end the failed war on drugs” in his second inaugural address. President Barack Obama’s first drug czar went so far as to claim that the administration had already “certainly ended the drug war.” But what does an “end to the war on drugs” really mean? Although some people might equate it with legalization, both Christie and Obama oppose legalizing even marijuana.
Scholars have critiqued specific components of the drug war since it began. There is also a rich literature debating the relative merits of legalization and prohibition. But the question of what separates the drug war from non-war prohibition has been almost completely overlooked. This Article aims to help fill this gap by plotting out a drug war exit strategy.
Post-script: Shortly before this Article was published, Donald J. Trump surprised most political watchers by winning the presidency. President Trump's election has raised the question of whether the emerging consensus against the drug war may be reversing itself. At the same time, other from signs this past election cycle point toward the drug war’s continued decline. The 2016 election also saw marijuana reform initiatives pass in 8 of the 9 states where they were on the ballot and President Obama ended his term by granting an historic number of clemency applications for federal drug offenders, without any significant political blowback. Only time will tell whether the 2016 election marks a turn back toward the drug war or whether we will continue on the path toward a drug truce.
Keywords: drug policy, marijuana, sentencing, mandatory minimums, criminal law, drug war, war on drugs
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