Any rational citizen of the United States has to realize that the War on Drugs is a total and abject failure. The main thing it has to show for itself is an overburdened prison system tied with a consistently large market for illegal drugs. Not only is the prison system stuffed to the gills with people there often for relatively minor offenses, but even a short period in prison can make it extremely difficult for the person to become gainfully employed, often forcing them back into the drug underculture.
I often describe myself as being at the liberal end of the libertarian spectrum, and I have a simple proposal which is in line with my "hands off" worldview.
Why not get the government out of the drug control business? Almost totally.
By "almost totally," I mean that we free up legal adults to use whatever drugs they want. Until, that is, they get in trouble. This is how we treat alcohol and alcohol abuse, after all, and what's wrong with that?
Tied to this would be hands off employers and landlords to choose whether to hire or provide housing for drug users, freeing them to require passing drug tests to get work or housing. Only if they wish to do so of course. Perhaps a business might prefer a marijuana user if their business is selling paraphernalia. A car dealership might think cocaine users make better car salesmen.
Likewise, a landlord might accept various kinds of drug users and, depending on the market, might charge a higher rate to give users a privilege to live in their business investment.
So, is hands off the right approach?
Now, will this get rid of drug dealers entirely? No, because there will be those who can't legally get drugs: those who have been convicted of drug abuse and, of course, minors. So, the drug problem will not totally go away, but we could certainly free up the money and resources prosecuting the drug war for more productive uses.
So taking the adult age as 18 we would attempt to protect a 17 year old by making drugs illegal for them but on their 18th birthday they are suddenly considered to have enough world knowledge and wisdom that of course they understand the dangers of drugs? That's an optimistic viewpoint which is not wholly consistent with your general outlook on matters I have seen you comment on before.
Come on, I would assume everybody understands that the only thing that happens on your 18th birthday is that you become a legal adult under the law. That simply answers a legal need for a point in a person's life when the law applies to them in an adult way and gives them adult responsibilities as well as privileges. The developmental psychologists seem to think ghat true psychological adulthood happens at something like 26 on the average. Perhaps adulthood should be determined by a test(?).
Quite, that was really my point. Not every "adult" can be considered to appreciate the dangers of drugs (as you suggested).
A test for adulthood? An interesting idea but hard to implement. Designing the test for a start seems full of pitfalls. An alternative is to set a fixed age (as we do) and then educate youngsters about things that have consequences such as unsafe sex, drugs and drink-driving.
My suggestion of a test was pretty much tongue in cheek. I doubt if it would turn out to be legal by the Supremes.
Why we need to end the War on Drugs (Ted Talk).
"So, is hands off the right approach?"
Certainly the hands on approach has only been effective in wasting hundreds of billions of dollars and needlessly clogging our penal system. Spend money on rehab clinics and other self help programs. There will need to be a comprehensive plan on controlling drug access to our youth. Strict laws would have to be enforced to try and contain the use of such drugs to our adult population only.
From strictly a cost perspective, education and treatment would be a drop in the bucket compared to courts and jails. What would cost more, a 30, 60, or 90-day rehab stay or a trial and months or years in jail?
From a human perspective, addiction is a disease. You treat disease; you don't punish it. Do we punish people with diabetes if they indulge in sweets? Felony possession of a twinkie, mandatory sentencing 8-12 years in federal prison?
Of course, the DEA and cops won't easily let go of all that funding.
You would think the authorities would tire from all the petty arrests and reams of paperwork generated by these victimless crimes.
I agree. Busting a kid with a joint seems a waste of time and effort. But in some bigger possession cases they can seize assets, sell them at auction, and the money goes directly into that agency's budget. At one time, one sheriff's department in Louisiana had all Audi police cars, financed by drug seizures.
Here in Oregon, where we legalized recreational marijuana in the last election, two of the pro-legalization ads featured a prosecutor and a prominent police figure, both saying that attending to murders and rapes and robberies and drunk drivers is a lot more important than keeping people from sucking on a bong or rolling up a roach.