The article examines the relations among illicit drugs, violence, and the state, focusing on why certain drugs are prohibited whereas others are not. The moral concerns underlying prohibition and the stereotyping of drug users along racial and class lines historically and in the present are reviewed. One conclusion is that modern states use drug prohibition as a way of defining the moral and social boundaries of exclusion and inclusion. In this definition, medical treatment and public health considerations play an auxiliary role. Other conclusions are the inflexibility of the international drug control regime and the need to consider experiments in drug legalization. Inflexibility, economic globalization, and worldwide drug trafficking have perverse consequences, which vary with the institutional capacity of states. The rise of incarceration and other forms of violence are particularly evident in economically and socially marginal communities and where the authority of states is weakened by internal corruption and external conflict.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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