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Professor Says Focus On Eliminating Violence First To Win Drug War

Audio

Aired 8/29/11

A New Drug War Strategy?

— With more than 50 people dead in Mexico’s latest massacre at a casino in Monterrey, a UCLA professor has an idea of how to reduce drug violence on both sides of the border — by focusing on violence rather than drugs.

Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert at the UCLA School of Public Affairs, believes the solution to fighting drug violence lies somewhere between Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s all-out war against drug traffickers, and the other extreme, simply legalizing drugs.

Use the power of markets, Kleiman says, to incentivize a more peaceful business model.

How do you do that? By strictly targeting the most violent drug trafficking organization in Mexico, and, on the U.S. side, targeting dealers who buy from that organization.

"My sense is that the U.S. distributors would find new sources and the target organization would find itself out of business relatively quickly," Kleiman said.

That may not eliminate the demand for drugs, but that’s where Kleiman said we’ve been barking up the wrong tree.

"If we imagine that the goal of drug policy is to abolish drug abuse, we've set ourselves a fool's errand. We can't do that," Kleiman said.

"We need a drug policy that tries to restrict drug abuse, but more importantly, tries to reduce the level of violence and disorder associated with drug dealing," he said.

To reduce demand, we should focus on the few drug rehab programs that actually work, according to Kleiman. Most don’t, he said.

You can read more about Kleiman’s proposal in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs.

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