Author Don Weatherburn
Published August 2014
Report Type Affiliated publication
Subject Costs of crime; Drugs and Drug Courts; Socioeconomic factors and crime; Statistical methods and modelling
Keywords decriminalization, harm reduction, prohibition, price elasticity, supply control

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The principal weakness with Alex Wodak's response to my original article is that the points he makes, whether accepted or not, have little bearing on the arguments I put. He is right to point out that there are substantial human and financial costs associated with drug prohibition. I acknowledged these costs at some length in my original paper. The fundamental question for policy makers, however, is not whether drug prohibition carries significant human and financial costs. Most criminal prohibitions carry substantial human and financial costs. We maintain them because we believe they also produce benefits and that (for at least some outcomes) the benefits outweigh the costs. Wodak ignores or downplays the benefits associated with drug prohibition. His arguments betray a misunderstanding of the mechanisms through which prohibition operates and of the kind of evidence required to determine whether a particular drug policy is a success or failure. I conclude with Caulkins and Lee (2012) that, given current knowledge, legalisation of any addictive or dangerous drug would be a ‘leap into uncharted and potentially dangerous waters'.