In a chat with new czar Gil Kerlikowske, George Will notes that the war on drugs, as it has been waged, is an utter failure. Harsh drug laws have done nothing to reduce drug-taking, he writes, and incarcerating drug users is looking more and more wasteful to strapped states. “Not many people think the drug war is a success,” Kerlikowske tells Will, and they “want a different conversation.” If enforcement doesn't work, what does?
Fortunately, there are several historical trends to draw hope from, he writes: Consider the steep dropoff in smoking in recent decades; the gradual reduction in alcoholic consumption from an average of 7 gallons a year in 1820 to today’s 3; or the backlash against crack as its effects manifested themselves to inner-city kids in the late '80s. So “Kerlikowske can hope that social learning, although slow and intermittent, is on his side,” Will concludes. “But perhaps he knows the axiom that experience is a great teacher but submits steep bills.”