The War on Drugs, and the way it is enforced - which disproportionately affects young people and minorities - is the product of centuries-old biases, argues Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, in today's lesson.
The underlying idea, argues Nadelmann, is that many people assume that a scientific assessment must be at the heart of our public policy regarding which drugs are legal and which ones are illegal. And yet, there is a great discrepancy when we look at the risk factors of various drugs and their legal status today. Why are cigarettes and alcohol legal, despite the proven risks associated with those drugs, while other categories of drugs are illegal? The answer, Nadelmann says, is these laws are based on irrational fears about which groups of people use which substances, as opposed to a proper assessment of the risks each substance poses to individuals and society.