More than 10 years ago, federal officials boldly claimed that they would create a ‘drug-free America by 1995.’ To reach that objective, Congress spent billions on police, prosecutors, drug courts, and prisons. Despite millions of arrests and countless seizures, America is not drug free. Illegal drugs are as readily available today as ever before. Drug prohibition has proven to be a costly failure. Like alcohol prohibition, drug prohibition has created more problems than it has solved.
The drug war has destroyed the lives of inner-city residents, corrupted law enforcement, and distorted our foreign policy. Yet drug prohibition is still seen as a viable strategy by our political leaders. Paradoxically, alternative drug policies—such as legalization—fall outside of the parameters of serious debate in our nation’s capital. No one maintains that drug legalization would be a panacea. There is no question that drug abuse would continue to be a problem even in the face of legalization. But drug prohibition is a blunderbuss approach that treats Americans with very little respect. It treats them like children. It is time to deal with adult drug use in a more open, honest, and mature manner. The drug war has been given a chance to work, but it has failed miserably.