Over the past couple of years, I’ve gradually come to the conclusion that the costs of drug prohibition are too high. In this, I’m lagging far behind some conservatives, who started opposing the war on drugs more than a decade ago — National Review declared “The War on Drugs Is Lost” back in 1996. The invasions on people’s liberty and privacy, the use of overwhelming force (sometimes against innocent people), the perverse incentives of asset forfeiture laws, the imprisonment of millions of people (disproportionately minorities) and the consequent impact on their families, not to mention the billions of taxpayer dollars spent (OK, I guess I did mention it) — all of that seems to have done very little to actually reduce the number of people getting addicted to drugs and suffering the consequences. All we seem to have accomplished is to grow the size and power of government, and at this point we can’t afford as much government as we have.
Two states have voted to legalize marijuana (in addition to the states that have legalized it for medical use.) Let’s turn the issue of “recreational” drugs over to the states and let them decide what to legalize, under what regulations. If Nevada wants to legalize heroin while Utah keeps it illegal, so what?
The federal government’s role should be limited to making sure that recreational drugs in foreign and interstate commerce are only going to states that have legalized them. There will need to be regulations to cover things like flying from one state to another where the drugs you’re carrying are legal in both places but you change planes in a state where the drugs are illegal, and other situations that might arise. But that will not require nearly as much manpower and funding as the current war on drugs.
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