How many times does it have to be said? The fundamental drug problem is not marijuana or heroin or cocaine, as troublesome and damaging as they are.
The far more harmful drugs are 1. tobacco and 2. alcohol. Tobacco kills at least 400,000 every year in this country. Alcohol kills at least 100,000. Add to this the health and other costs, and you will see that the usual suspects are minor in comparison. We have spent billions of dollars and incarcerated thousands, especially poor African Americans and have barely made a dent in the devastation wrought by illegal drugs.
The difference is that tobacco and alcohol are socially acceptable drugs, while marijuana, heroin, and cocaine are not. I do not mean to trivialize the harm done to people and the costs incurred to the nation by the illegal drugs, but we need a sense of proportion.
The illegal drugs are perils with no good solution, but the best approach is to take the profit--the money gain--out of them and deal with them as a public health concern, i. e., prevention and treatment, and not as a criminal justice matter.
Would there be major tribulations associated with the decriminalization of the the currently illegal drugs? Certainly, but I defy anyone to make a convincing case that the situation would be worse than it is now.
The root problem is the distorted, puzzling set of values we have in this country. We are astonishingly tolerant of guns and violence and still both puritanical and obsessed in regard to sex, and totally irrational when it comes to the drugs now classified as illegal.
See a more lengthy treatment of all this at: