Vice Squad
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Globalizing Drug Prohibition

Thanks to the efforts of primo research assistant Ryan Monarch I managed to read "The Secret of Worldwide Drug Prohibition," an article by Harry G. Levine that appeared in The Independent Review in Fall, 2002. Levine offers many insights in the 16-page article, and I will try to share some of them in the next few days. To start, let me quote Levine's paragraph summarizing how drug prohibition became a global phenomenon in the 20th Century:

"In the twentieth century, drug prohibition spread from the United States to every country in the world, for a number of reasons. First, drug prohibition spread so successfully because of the enormous economic, political, and military power of the United States. Second, many different kinds of governments throughout the world supported drug prohibition because they found that police and military resources marshalled on behalf of drug prohibition could be used for many nondrug-related activities. Third, drug prohibition also gained substantial popular support in many countries because drug-demonization crusades and antidrug ideology were rhetorically, politically, and even financially useful to many politicians, the media, schools, the police, the military, religious institutions, and some elements of the medical profession. Fourth, the spread of drug prohibition was aided by the twentieth century's romantic or utopian ideologies about coercive state power, making the fight against 'drugs' the one topic on which politicians of all stripes could usually agree. Finally, drug prohibition gained great legitimacy throughout the world because it was seen as a UN project."

Levine later suggests that repealing or amending the chief UN antidrug convention would allow nations and eventually localities to experiment with different drug-control regimes, much as repealing the 18th Amendment in the US allowed the individual states to develop their own alcohol control regimes.

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