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Lessons from the Economics of CrimeWhat Reduces Offending?$
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Philip J. Cook, Stephen Machin, Olivier Marie, and Giovanni Mastrobuoni

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780262019613

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262019613.001.0001

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Drug Prohibition and Its Alternatives

Drug Prohibition and Its Alternatives

(p.45) 2 Drug Prohibition and Its Alternatives
Lessons from the Economics of Crime

John J. Donohue III

The MIT Press

Both legal (alcohol, tobacco) and illegal drugs impose substantial costs on society, but the nature of the costs varies dramatically between use and prohibition costs. This paper tries to assess whether movements toward legalization or towards tougher criminalization are likely to be welfare-enhancing by estimating the scale of the problem associated with legal and illegal drug use and by comparing the current prohibition on drugs in the United States with alternative drug policies implemented internationally (including Portugal's experiment with decriminalization). The path for welfare-enhancing reform is neither pure laissez faire (substantial regulation and taxation are needed with legalization) or an all-out war on drugs (at the least, substantial reductions in drug-related incarceration would improve the criminalization strategy).

Keywords:   Drug legalization, Drug prohibition, Drug decriminalization, “War on drugs”, Social costs of drug use

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