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Our Books

Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (1993)
Drug-taking and drug control are alike; both are often done to excess. “Against Excess” shows how we can limit the damage done by drugs and the damage done by drug policies. Mark Kleiman cuts through the rhetoric of the war on drugs and the legalization debate to discuss the practical options available for the control of the entire range of psychoactive substances, offering detailed prescriptions for managing alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, marijuana and heroin. “Against Excess” is organized around 3 questions: why do some people who can manage the rest of their lives get into trouble with drugs; how do their problems harm their families and their communities; what can governments do about it? Kleiman argues that we need to develop a middle course between prohibition and complete legal availability: a new category of “grudging toleration” that would apply to alcohol and to some of the currently prohibited drugs. He also argues that, as a practical matter, drug programs – enforcement, persuasion, and helping and controlling problem users – may be as important as the laws.

When Brute Force Fails (2009)
Since the crime explosion of the 1960s, the prison population in the United States has multiplied fivefold, to one prisoner for every hundred adults–a rate unprecedented in American history and unmatched anywhere in the world. Even as the prisoner head count continues to rise, crime has stopped falling, and poor people and minorities still bear the brunt of both crime and punishment. When Brute Force Fails explains how we got into the current trap and how we can get out of it: to cut both crime and the prison population in half within a decade.

Mark Kleiman demonstrates that simply locking up more people for lengthier terms is no longer a workable crime-control strategy. But, says Kleiman, there has been a revolution–largely unnoticed by the press–in controlling crime by means other than brute-force incarceration: substituting swiftness and certainty of punishment for randomized severity, concentrating enforcement resources rather than dispersing them, communicating specific threats of punishment to specific offenders, and enforcing probation and parole conditions to make community corrections a genuine alternative to incarceration. As Kleiman shows, “zero tolerance” is nonsense: there are always more offenses than there is punishment capacity. But, it is possible–and essential–to create focused zero tolerance, by clearly specifying the rules and then delivering the promised sanctions every time the rules are broken.

Brute-force crime control has been a costly mistake, both socially and financially. Now that we know how to do better, it would be immoral not to put that knowledge to work.

Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (2011)
While there have always been norms and customs around the use of drugs, explicit public policies–regulations, taxes, and prohibitions–designed to control drug abuse are a more recent phenomenon. Those policies sometimes have terrible side-effects: most prominently the development of criminal enterprises dealing in forbidden (or untaxed) drugs and the use of the profits of drug-dealing to finance insurgency and terrorism. Neither a drug-free world nor a world of free drugs seems to be on offer, leaving citizens and officials to face the age-old problem: What are we going to do about drugs?In Drugs and Drug Policy, three noted authorities survey the subject with exceptional clarity, in this addition to the acclaimed series, What Everyone Needs to Know. They begin by, defining “drugs,” examining how they work in the brain, discussing the nature of addiction, and exploring the damage they do to users. The book moves on to policy, answering questions about legalization, the role of criminal prohibitions, and the relative legal tolerance for alcohol and tobacco. The authors then dissect the illicit trade, from street dealers to the flow of money to the effect of catching kingpins, and show the precise nature of the relationship between drugs and crime. They examine treatment, both its effectiveness and the role of public policy, and discuss the beneficial effects of some abusable substances. Finally they move outward to look at the role of drugs in our foreign policy, their relationship to terrorism, and the ugly politics that surround the issue.Crisp, clear, and comprehensive, this is a handy and up-to-date overview of one of the most pressing topics in today’s world.

Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know (2012)
Should marijuana be legalized? The latest Gallup poll reports that exactly half of Americans say “yes”; opinion couldn’t be more evenly divided.

Marijuana is forbidden by international treaties and by national and local laws across the globe. But those laws are under challenge in several countries. In the U.S., there is no short-term prospect for changes in federal law, but sixteen states allow medical use and recent initiatives to legalize production and non-medical use garnered more than 40% support in four states. California’s Proposition 19 nearly passed in 2010, and multiple states are expected to consider similar measures in the years to come.

The debate and media coverage surrounding Proposition 19 reflected profound confusion, both about the current state of the world and about the likely effects of changes in the law. In addition, not all supporters of “legalization” agree on what it is they want to legalize: Just using marijuana? Growing it? Selling it? Advertising it? If sales are to be legal, what regulations and taxes should apply? Different forms of legalization might have very different results.

Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know will provide readers with a non-partisan primer about the topic, covering everything from the risks and benefits of using marijuana, to describing the current laws around the drug in the U.S. and abroad. The authors discuss the likely costs and benefits of legalization at the state and national levels and walk readers through the “middle ground” of policy options between prohibition and commercialized production. The authors also consider how marijuana legalization could personally impact parents, heavy users, medical users, drug traffickers, and employers.