What We Got Wrong in the War on Drugs

19 Pages Posted: 26 Aug 2020

See all articles by Mark William Osler

Mark William Osler

University of St. Thomas - School of Law (Minnesota)

Date Written: 2020


The War on Drugs is effectively over. Drugs won. This essay addresses some of the mistakes we made in that futile effort. Allowing racism to motivate action and impede reform was a primary error. So was failing to understand that narcotics crime is simply different than other types of criminalized behavior in several fundamental ways. In whole, we largely addressed the narcotics trade as a moral failing rather than a market—and never got around to recognizing the size and shape of that market or to using market forces to control it. Ronald Reagan compared the War on Drugs to the Battle of Verdun, and he was right: fortunes were spent, many lives were lost, and nothing really changed.

Keywords: Narcotics, War on Drugs, Drug law, Sentencing, Narcotics demand

Suggested Citation

Osler, Mark William, What We Got Wrong in the War on Drugs (2020). University of St. Thomas Law Journal, 2021 Forthcoming, U of St. Thomas (Minnesota) Legal Studies Research Paper No. 20-16, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3681043

Mark William Osler (Contact Author)

University of St. Thomas - School of Law (Minnesota) ( email )

MSL 400, 1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States
(254) 717-7032 (Phone)

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