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The Never-Ending Drug War: Obstacles to Drug War Policy Termination

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 January 2012

Renee Scherlen
Appalachian State University


Why does the war on drugs continue after 40 years? This article combines theories of policy termination and prospect theory to explain the drug war's persistence. After reviewing the case for termination, the article turns to policy termination theory. As previous case studies have demonstrated, rationality and economic reasoning alone fail to persuade politicians to end existing policies. In the case of the drug war, specific characteristics of the drug policy and the current political environment, as well as typical institutional and bureaucratic constraints, create substantial obstacles to end the drug war. Perceptions of the risks and benefits of drug war termination also create difficulties. The article concludes that a number of factors need to shift before drug war policy termination can take place.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2012

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