Policy regarding drugs, both legal and illegal and explicitly including alcohol, poses some of the most prominent and perplexing issues facing modern societies. For nearly a century, the United States has been an active proponent of the punitive prohibition of illicit drugs. Unfortunately, the “War on Drugs” has been largely unsuccessful; prosecution of illegal drug consumption has filled our prisons without significantly reducing crime, decreasing homelessness, preventing overdose deaths, diminishing the spread of HIV or undermining the illegal drug market. Many now argue that the vision of a “drug-free” America is unrealistic. Other countries are turning to “harm reduction” policies to reduce the societal damage that illegal drug use causes. With cautious optimism, the Baker Institute Drug Policy Program pursues research and open debate on local and national drug policies in hopes of developing pragmatic policies based on common sense, driven by human rights interests, and focused on reducing the death, disease, crime and suffering associated with drug use.
Baker Institute fellows, scholars and experts contributing to the work of the Drug Policy Program include:
William Martin, director of the Drug Policy Program, has written, lectured, lobbied and testified on such issues as needle exchange programs, reduction or removal of criminal penalties associated with low-level nonviolent drug use, and regulation and taxation of marijuana.
Gary Hale, former chief of intelligence in the Houston Field Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, works with both the U.S. and Mexican governments as they grapple with drug trafficking organizations operating in the two countries.
Katharine A. Neill researches sentencing policies for drug offenders in the United States. Her primary area of focus has been the War on Drugs era, and she is now looking at some of the more recent reforms to drug laws in select states. She is also involved in research efforts aimed at legalizing medical and recreational marijuana.
Nathan Jones continues extensive research on the major Mexican drug trafficking organizations and associated violence in Mexico; oversees the Baker Institute Viewpoints blog series, which features varied stances on current drug policy issues; and leads a collaboration with the South Texas College of Law to develop model legislation for the production, distribution and use of marijuana.