How to Break the Drug Policy Deadlock the Red Team/Blue Team Way

It will likely be a long while, (or even longer) before we have a national consensus on whether we should continue our pursuit of prohibition of drugs or end it. Part of the problem is the public remains in the dark on so many aspects of the issue.  There is a way to correct that, as well as arrive at the right conclusion, if some politicians would get behind it.

A method used for studying high-consequence subjects and deciding on best options is called the “Red Team” approach. See Wikipedia. Developed for planning in the military, the idea was to create a team of experts who argue the opposing side in a battle—the aggressor side—called the Red Team—the enemy. The Blue Team—that’s us—is another team of experts arguing against the Red.  The specialized knowledge of each enables them to envision all possibilities, with the sides attacking or supporting each of the wide variety of those.

For example, in military planning, if the blue team does one thing, the red team reacts exactly the way the enemy would. Then another idea is advanced and the “enemy” reacts. The game is played until all possibilities have been explored and either accepted or rejected. The conclusions that come out of the process have had all angles  considered. Decision makers now know what will work best.

With some minor changes this method could be used in a debate on drug policy reform. First you need to frame the question with a proposed situation or solution. We already have that in two published reports that could be treated together as one to be sure the reform idea was fully stated. These are the Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and the Report of the Johns Hopkins University – Lancet Commission on Public Health and International Drug Policy. Both reflect the consensus reached among really smart people and both call for an end to drug prohibition–and switching to legalization with regulation.

The next step is to assemble two teams, one to support prohibition as it is and the other to support  reforms to replace it. A carefully assembled commission of neutral judges would coordinate exchanges of written arguments, and responses and replies—the papers flying back and forth—and also hold hearings or controlled debates in public view. These might also consider questions and arguments submitted from the public to be addressed by the experts. This could make great TV. The discussions and debates would go on for weeks, maybe months, until the commission decided all possible arguments had been made and considered. The the commission would write a report on the scale, say, of the Warren Commission report on the Kennedy assassination.

The best arguments of both sides would be clearly before the public and everyone would be far better informed.  We would have a concrete, completely informed report by a responsible Commission consisting of some of our best and brightest. Their report would then be taken up in Congress. The constitution leaves final decisions of this kind to the legislators, but what a powerful product we would have to get them to the right conclusion.

I have every confidence the commission’s recommendation would be to scrap our anti-drug laws.

© All rights reserved to Dave Finch  April 21, 2017

Tell your Congressman, and for more ammunition, visit my Reform Drug Policy Project.



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