Friday, March 29, 2013

Mark Kleiman on why we need to solve our alcohol problem to solve our crime problem


Mark Kleiman is Professor of Public Policy at the UCLA School of Public Affairs and is currently advising Washington State on marijuana legalization. His article in the latest issue of the journal “Democracy” argues that we can reform the criminal justice system to make sanctions more predictable and less cruel while reducing crime in the process. We spoke on the phone Thursday afternoon; a lightly edited transcript follows.

Dylan Matthews: One point your piece makes very strongly is that the crime problem in the United States isn’t mostly about illegal drugs.

Mark Kleiman: Drugs are an important part of the question if you include alcohol as a drug. Take any dimension of the problem you like, except for source country violence. All illegal drugs combined are to alcohol as the Mediterranean is to the Pacific. We have our whole navy in the Mediterranean. And that’s true both of the drug policy machinery and those who are fighting the drug war, and of the drug reform movement, which, it seems to me, neglects the problem with the one drug we’ve legalized. Any sentence about drug policy that doesn’t end with “raise alcohol taxes” is an incoherent sentence.

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