lies in judgments about impact and efficacy against agreed-on objectives, not in our views of justice or social value.

Supply-Reduction Policy and Drug Law Enforcement

Supply-reduction policy is often treated as identical with drug law enforcement. While there is a substantial overlap among the interventions that belong in each category, there is an important conceptual difference between these ideas, and there are some policy interventions that belong in one category but not the other. Supply-reduction efforts include all those interventions that are made to reduce the availability of drugs to unauthorized users. This category includes many things that are not ordinarily thought of as drug law enforcement. For example, it includes efforts to persuade farmers in foreign countries to substitute legitimate crops for illegal drugs. It also includes efforts to police the regulatory boundary between drugs prescribed for legitimate users and those who would like to abuse them. Some activities, such as crop replacement, are supply-reduction efforts but are not law enforcement efforts.

By the same token, drug law enforcement includes many interventions that do not aim to reduce the supply of drugs. For example, it is a crime in all states to possess and use certain drugs as well as to sell them. Nearly 1 million people a year are arrested for personal possession or use of small amounts of drugs (Office of National Drug Control Policy, 1999a).1 Enforcement of laws prohibiting personal possession or use is properly seen as operating on the demand side rather than the supply side of the drug problem. Such enforcement adds the threat of arrest to all the other reasons that already exist to avoid using illegal drugs and brings current drug users into the criminal justice system, where they can be sent to jail or sent to drug treatment alternatives to jail.

Plausible Efficacy: Reasoning About Supply-Reduction Efforts

To begin our analysis of supply-reduction instruments, it is useful to lay out the logic that links supply-reduction policy to drug use. Many common errors of reasoning show up in policy debates about supply-reduction policy.

Some drug policy analysts appear to believe that supply-reduction efforts fail to deter drug use because most drug users are addicted and


It was sale of alcohol, not possession for home use, that was prohibited during Prohibition. Except in a few states, individuals were always allowed to manufacture and use alcohol for their own use, yet the policy was viewed as prohibition. It is clear that the nation’s drug policy is much more prohibitive than Prohibition was (Bonnie and Whitebread, 1974).

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