Anyone who has watched writer David Simon’s HBO television series The Wire is familiar with the term “Hamsterdam.” Hamsterdam refers to a section of Baltimore where the sale and consumption of drugs are legal on the show.
Hamsterdam came about because the drug trade on mainstream street corners became too disruptive to everyday citizens. People were murdered and taxpayers moved out of the city to the neighboring county to avoid violence and drug culture. As a result, a rogue cop created Hamsterdam, comprised of empty row houses where the drug trade is legal and regulated for violence.
Hamsterdam was incredibly successful. Street corners were peaceful. Crime decreased by 14 percent in the district. Groups that distributed clean needles and condoms set up in Hamsterdam and reached people in the shadowy underworld of the drug trade that were once unreachable. Narcotics Anonymous set up in Hamsterdam and saw an influx of members looking to stop drug use. Cops even started charging all mid-level dealers a tax in order to continue operating in Hamsterdam. They used this tax to buy a basketball hoop for the kids of Hamsterdam who were no longer needed to help dealers complete illegal deals.
Obviously this is a TV show, and it may not reflect what would happen if drugs were legalized, but it forces one to consider if drug prohibition does more harm than good. Continue reading