A Presidential Commission on Drug Policy: Instrument of Reform or Defender of the Status Quo?
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
Critics of the War on Drugs often invoice the two reports of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse (1971–73) to signify an alternative conception of drug policy, one rooted in the public health tradition rather than criminal law enforcement. Based on the example of the Marihuana Commission, contemporary proponents of a “harm reduction” strategy have supported the creation of a Presidential commission to conduct a comprehensive study of U.S. drug policy. They envision an ambitious project designed to rethink the current approach and develop a blueprint for a reformed policy aiming to reduce harm rather than to eradicate drugs or drug use. When established to study controversial social problems, however, Presidential advisory commissions are utilized either to help set an agenda for a Presidential initiative or to reaffirm the status quo. Given the present political climate, it is doubtful that a new commission will be the instrument of much-needed reform.