Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2002


Public concern about drug abuse as a major issue in American life may be ebbing. The notion that "the drug war is a failure" has become the common wisdom in academic and journalistic circles. Support for routine and lengthy imprisonment of non-violent drug offenders may be eroding, even among the prosecutors, police, and judges whose job it is to enforce the law. Anger among African American, Latino, and other minority communities at the perceived discriminatory enforcement of drug laws is simmering and may begin to boil over in ways that effect the political terrain. And after the events of September 11, 2001, the newly declared "War on Terror" may supplant any "war on drugs" as the focus of the American mind for years to come. All these themes are observable in debates over federal and state drug policy during the last year or so. In the rest of this essay, I venture a tentative mapping of the current geology of the national drug policy debate -the plate tectonics, the fault lines, the erosion, the regions of potential volcanism - and some still more tentative thoughts about how the accretion of subterranean forces may change the contours of American drug policy.


Published as Frank O. Bowman III, Editor's Observations: The Geology of Drug Policy in 2002, 14 Fed. Sent. R. 123 (2002). © 2002 by [the Regents of the University of California/Sponsoring Society or Association]. Copying and permissions notice: Authorization to copy this content beyond fair use (as specified in Sections 107 and 108 of the U. S. Copyright Law) for internal or personal use, or the internal or personal use of specific clients, is granted by [the Regents of the University of California/on behalf of the Sponsoring Society] for libraries and other users, provided that they are registered with and pay the specified fee via Rightslink® on [JSTOR (] or directly with the Copyright Clearance Center,



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