The "war on drugs" has been a sad excuse for a drug policy in this country. Decades of a zealous prohibition and intensive, often unconstitutional, law enforcement efforts to rid the country of illegal drugs have failed us.
The Economist estimates that the illegal drug industry rakes in well over $60 billion a year. Those that peddle illegal drugs run an underground operation free of taxation, regulation, and quality control.
By banning drugs, the government has ceded all control of potentially dangerous substances to criminals. In legalizing the drugs in question, we deny criminals this industry and market. The federal government could tax and regulate drug production; and, under the auspices of the FDA, ensure their quality and relative safety. Ceding all this to an underground industry would ensure the addicts' lives will be devastated by the crippling costs of their addictions.
Legalization alone is not enough. We need to decriminalize drugs. An addiction to a drug is a public health issue, not a crime. We only exacerbate the problem when we maintain the current "lock 'em up" mentality. Nonviolent drug offenders make up nearly 60 percent of our federal prison population. We need to rehabilitate drug abusers. Drug imprisonments are a leading cause of rising local tax burdens, they have neither stopped the sale and use of drugs nor enhanced public safety.
Let's refocus our aims to reduce drug abuse and prohibition-generated crime. Our addiction to an illegal drug prohibition has been crippling, but I'm confident we can kick it.
"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism."--Thomas Jefferson