An unflinching analysis of one of the major issues of our time — the shift from criminalization to regulation of recreational drugs.

“Permit but discourage” has become the central theme in regulating consumption. Alcohol, tobacco, and non-nutritious food can all be sold, just as various forms of gambling are allowed, but harmful levels of use are discouraged by taxes and other regulations. Lessons have been learned the hard way from how society has regulated other forms of addiction and consumption — it’s time to apply those lessons to drugs.

The impact of drug criminalization on society has been the same across borders: the cost of controlling the production, sale, and use of recreational drugs by means of criminal law is just too high. Once drugs have been decriminalized or legalized, however, a regulatory scheme must be implemented to drive up prices, dampen consumption, and provide revenue for treatment, counselling, and other costs.

Off the Street: Legalizing Drugs calls for a thoughtful, national discussion of these issues. Whatever the issues raised by legalization, whatever the questions surrounding regulation, the many costs of continued criminalization are just too high.

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