The Prohibition Paradox

Ross Bell (New Zealand Drug Foundation Director) talks fallacy of the idea which drives much drug policy that we can achieve a 'drug free world', and says that a pragmatic and humane approach needs to accept the reality that drug use and drug based economies will always exist.

He frames the issue in terms of two continuums:

- The response to the use and sale of specific drugs, from being fully legal and available through the free market, to the hard core war on drugs ("fully liberalised to totally freaking out").

- The level of harm, from very low harm through to big harms to society and the health of individuals.

He suggests that the response continuum is often not aligned to the harm continuum. For example alcohol is almost completely liberalised, legal and available in mainstream markets, but the levels of harm associated with it can be very high at all levels, from individuals to families to wider society. But the approach to other drugs is at the other end of the spectrum, with heavy enforcement and penalties - and this response has its own harms. He advocates finding a tipping point on the continuum where the harms from with the response to drugs don't outweigh the harms from the drugs themselves. As well as meaning softer approaches to law enforcement this would include initiatives to help users manage and reduce the harmful effects of drugs.