on October 20, 1999
Steven Wishnia, copyright © High Times Magazine (October 1999) What would the world of legalization look like, and how would we get there? Jefferson Fish's anthology, How to Legalize Drugs (Jason Aronson), tries to answer those questions. Its 24 essays-by such drug-policy luminaries as Dr. Lester Grinspoon, Ethan Nadelmann, and federal Judge Robert Sweet-discuss the history of the Drug War, strategies for ending it and ways to manage legal drug use and sales. At 660 pages, with chapter titles like "The Transition From Prohibition to Regulation: Lessons from Alcohol Policy for Drug Policy," and "Discontinuous Change and the War on Drugs," it definitely isn't prime baked reading material. But if you want an intense look at specific issues and nuances, you'll be rewarded. What are the differences between the harm-reduction and the rights-based libertarian arguments against the Drug War? How do the language and concepts of drug-related discourse reinforce prohibitionist thinking? ("Marijuana, for example, has never caused a death, but how does one persuade the public to adopt a more accurate view of the pharmacological reality?" the authors ask.) Which drugs should be legalized, and where and how would they be sold? And the ACLU's Kevin Gray, comparing the Drug War's effect on black communities to Jim Crow, calls for "an antiwar movement." Fish, a psychology professor at St. John's University in Queens, NY, suggests a gradual transition to legalization, through steps like legalizing needle exchange and medical marijuana, and moving on to regulating marijuana like alcohol and tobacco, and legalizing coca leaves, psilocybin and MDMA. However, he believes the end of the Drug War will be "discontinuous"-as rapid and sudden as the extinction of the dinosaurs.
on June 26, 1999
Some books on drug policy reform target the heart, calling attention to the incredible suffering caused by the war on drugs but "How to Legalize Drugs" targets the brain. Jeff Fish has put together an extraordinarily complete collection of essays that covers the range of arguments bout how to reverse our drug policy. This book covers all sorts of theories about how change will occur, what sort of changes is likely, what kind is desirable, what form the transition might take, and what the result of such change might be. Historians, attorneys, pharmacologists, economists, political scientists, psychiatrists - all offer their different perspectives here. So much is discussed - from Douglas Husak's excellent analysis of the two fundamental caps of drug reformers (harm reductionists and Libertarians) to highly specific are of interest like "the impact of the War on Drugs on Puerto Ricans," that it would make a perfect text for a course in drug policy.
If you are new to the movement and find yourself spending more and more time discussing different aspects of reform, this is the book for you. If you've been around the issue for years, and find the subject as interesting as I do, this book is refreshing. With most "arguments" from Drug War warriors consisting of the same old drivel about "the message we're sending the children," someone needs to take the discussion to a more intelligent level. This book does it.
on March 15, 2001
HOW TO LEGALIZE DRUGS by Jefferson Fish,Ph.D.is the most comprehensive & informative publication i've come across addressing the highly charged political & social issues surrounding drug policy reform. Contributing to this masterpeice are 30 thinkers from the disciplines of anthropology, economics, law,philosophy,political science, psychology & sociology with each presenting an in-depth, scholarly & multifaceted dimension to our understanding.
In dedicating this work to the "victims of Drug Prohibition," Dr. Fish describes in painful detail what has become known as "the drug exception to the Bill of Rights." He even considers the entertainment value of the war..."like public executions of the past,or Romans throwing undesirables to the lions...if politics is about giving bread & circuses to the masses, then 'fighting drugs' may provide the kind of exciting entertinment that citizens are willing to pay for!"
LEGALIZE gives ample consideration to both public health (harm reduction) & human rights based approaches to policy reform & unlike many, Dr. Fish maintains hope in the midst of despair. He believes the time is ripe for powerful rapid change as we've seen with the collapse of the Soviet Union after decades of the Cold War & earlier in the century with the end of alcohol prohibition.
LEGALIZE contains 9 different proposals for legalization, from the most limited to the most sweeping, with a variety of health & rights based rationales. Dr. Fish points out that even if only marijuana were legalized, then the war on drugs would shrink drastically & many drug warriers & criminal justice bureaucrats would be out looking for jobs.
For those interested in more than superficial or soundbyte awareness of the War on Drugs, the in-depth treatment in LEGALIZE heralds the possible return of intelligence & commonsense to these & related issues & is a monumental & comprehensive statement in its own right.