House Speaker Newt Gingrich has recently (and repeatedly) called for the execution of drug traffickers. "The first time we execute 27 or 30 or 35 people at one time...the price of carrying drugs will have gone up dramatically," says Gingrich. Maybe so, but international comparisons of drug policies suggest that legal sanctions may not be a decisive factor in use decisions. In the Rand publication Comparing Western European and North American Drug Policies, an outgrowth of a 1991 conference, scholars Peter Reuter, Mathea Falco, and Robert MacCoun note, "[T]he United States, with the most severe [drug] problem, has the toughest policy; the Netherlands, with perhaps the least severe problem, has the most tolerant policy. On the other hand, firmly prohibitionist Norway has less of a problem than highly tolerant Spain. Many other factors...may be more important than drug policy in explaining these differences."
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