By Kojo Koram / The Guardian

In 1942, the American political scientist Quincy Wright published a lengthy book about how to organise the world beyond endless wars. A Study of War cemented Wright’s reputation as an influential liberal thinker of the early 20th century. But Wright would help bring about a new type of endless war in his time. He was one of the first major voices to call for what would later be known as the “war on drugs”. As early as 1924, Wright argued that the use of drugs “for purposes other than medicinal or scientific” is an “evil”. While working as an adviser to the state department, Wright advocated for the US to lead a global assault against drugs.

Almost a century later, the “war on drugs” may need a new leader. Amid the chaos surrounding last November’s US presidential contest, drug policy reform quietly took a quantum leap forward. Voters from across the political spectrum chose to legalise recreational cannabis, opening the door for places such as Arizona and New Jersey to recreate the lucrative cannabis industries already found in California, Colorado and other states.

Policies are also being introduced to try to bring an end to the system of mass incarceration, and to redress the racial and economic inequalities fuelled by the “war on drugs” that became an enduring touchstone of US federal policy after Richard Nixon declared drugs “public enemy number one” in 1971. But the most dramatic change came in Oregon, which legalised cannabis in 2014 and has now become the first US state to decriminalise all drugs, including cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin.