Reefer Madness

James Gibney tackles the war on drugs:

You'd have to be sucking on a doobie as big as a submarine to think our current drug-control policies work: from 1982 to 2005, the Drug Enforcement Administration's budget increased roughly tenfold, the national arrest rate for drug offenses more than doubled (from 286 per 100,000 to 600 per 100,000) ... and a dangerous drug like cocaine became dramatically less expensive. Meanwhile, busts for the possession of marijuana, which also figured prominently in the San Diego State investigation, still account for the most drug arrests in this country.

The war on drugs not only wastes law-enforcement resources, it also corrodes our respect for the law in general. Using a relatively benign drug like marijuana should become a regulated pastime, indulged in by consenting adults, much like drinking alcohol or gambling. Drunk driving kills more than 17,000 people each year, and 3 percent of the U.S. population meets the criteria for "problem gamblers." But no one talks seriously about reviving the 18th Amendment or shuttering Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Why? Because Prohibition taught us that banning such activities creates a nation of lawbreakers and a popular culture that exalts criminality. Costly, dubious, and ineffective legal strictures just end up undermining the social compact they're intended to reinforce.