Kleiman argues in favor of loosened drug laws
By Clifton Lyons, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, September 21, 2012
Lawmakers should approach the topic of drug regulation without cultural preconceptions, University of California, Los Angeles public policy professor Mark Kleiman said in a packed lecture held in the Rockefeller Center on Thursday. At the event, Kleiman said that policymakers should focus on the economic repercussions of legalizing and regulating certain drugs.
An expert on methods of public policy analysis, drug abuse and crime control, Kleiman is an author and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. He currently serves on the National Research Council’s Committee on Law and Justice.
While his lecture touched upon all major categories of drugs, Kleiman primarily focused on alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and tobacco products. For each drug, he asked members of the audience to give their own policy proposals for regulation before revealing his own opinion.
Opponents to increased tobacco regulation often argue that further restrictions violate their personal liberties. Protecting society’s health and well-being should remain legislators’ top priority, Kleiman said. Cigarette usage needs to be more heavily regulated because some smokers, especially young users, do not realize the potential devastating effects smoking has on the body, he said.
Alcohol, however, needs further regulation without complete prohibition, which would increase the potential of criminal activity and the formation of underground markets, he said. Since driving under the influence is one of the greatest societal problems associated with alcohol consumption, Kleiman said that those who are convicted of a DUI should be stripped of their driving privileges for 30 days and that a marker should be placed on their licenses. Such a marker would indicate to law enforcement officials that a person has been previously arrested for alcohol-related charges.
“Bartenders will be more reluctant to provide alcohol to a convicted drunk driver than someone who is 20 as opposed to 21,” Kleiman said.
The issue of marijuana legalization inspired heated debate among audience members, who said that marijuana has fewer detrimental side effects to both the user and society than other drugs.
Legalization would increase marijuana usage and potentially double the number of people whose marijuana usage interferes with daily activities from 3 million to 6 million users, according to Kleiman. Legalization would also indirectly contribute to the increase in consumption of other drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, he said.
Kleiman said that ending the drug war in the United States required an increased focus on the selling of “harder drugs,” such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines, which contribute to the majority of drug-related incarcerations.
“If we want to end the drug war now, playing around in marijuana is not going to get us anywhere,” Kleiman said.
Kleiman said that policymakers who want to end the country’s current drug problem should place greater focus on ending the violent culture associated with the illicit sale of cocaine.
Anoush Arakelian ’14, who attended the lecture, said that as a college student living in an extremely pro-legalization environment, she was surprised that Kleiman said that legalizing marijuana would increase usage of other drugs.
The lecture was titled “What Drugs Should Be Legalized? How Legal Should They Be?”