Comparing policies across US drug markets

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In democracies, drug policy is shaped by expectations of problems as well as by public preferences and political realities. As public preferences shift, so too will the systems of control. But systems of control have their own costs. There are the costs of maintaining the regulatory system, the costs of the black markets that emerge in response to the regulation, the costs of criminalizing behavior of otherwise law-abiding citizens, and the costs of forgone liberties. Some markets, such as heroin, are entirely prohibited. In contrast, in states that have legalized recreational marijuana in the United States, the focus is on product safety and reducing problem use and youth access, with targeted regulation and taxation. Some harmful substances are permitted under the ordinary regulations that apply to any sort of commerce (such as sugar) or with special regulation and taxes (such as alcohol). The relative social costs and benefits of systems of control are hard to assess, and these calculations are rarely performed. The challenge is in designing a system that does less harm than the harmful behavior it targets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDual Markets
Subtitle of host publicationComparative Approaches to Regulation
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9783319653617
ISBN (Print)9783319653600
StatePublished - Nov 14 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Medicine


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