Lately I've put a bit of thought into the state of drug policy in our nation. It's really not in dispute that illegal drugs are a major problem which doesn't seem to be on the road to solution. It's been over 20 years since Reagan declared a War on Drugs. The war has been rather successful in much the same way the War on Terror has, it's built up our police force and ruined the lives of countless people but really hasn't reduced the amount of drug usage.
Now before we get all into this, I guess I should lay down my stance on drug usage. Generally speaking I'm against usage of mind altering substances. There are exceptions of course, such as doctor prescribed or over the counter medicines (although I do try to avoid those whenever possible). I generally steer clear from even caffeine because a) it has never affected me much, b) I don't care much for the typical caffeine conveyances (soda) and c) I would prefer to not get addicted.
I did find it rather interesting in Michael Pollan's book, Botany of Desire, that nearly every (or maybe he did say every) culture on Earth has some sort of mind altering substance which it condones. So in once sense it's rather hypocritical of us to deny one person his drugs just because his choice differs from our own. But of course the details do matter and meth is different from pot is different from caffeine, so we can't simply lump them together.
It's only natural that we would choose to legislate something with such potentially harmful side effects, and it's human nature to want to punish those who can't follow the rules. But we have to be realistic about the results. While it may feel good to put those no-good pot smoking hippies in jail, what we really have to judge in our approach is whether we're decreasing the amount of crime and violence associated with drug abuse and whether those hippies are actually any better off. That's really the direction I'm coming at this from.
As a recent report from the CATO Institute found, when Portugal decriminalized (which is not the same as legalized) all drugs they actually saw a very positive outcome. John Tierney recently wrote on that topic as well. And Freakonomics a few months ago had a very enlightening debate about legalization.
To sum up, I'm not encouraging drug usage but I don't believe our current prohibitionist laws are doing anybody any good, from the law abiding citizen spending tax money to house criminals to the addict himself who might very much like to get sober. It's the ethical and economical thing to do.