Let's face it: the drug prohibition is ineffective and harmful. Period. Let me count the ways:
(1) Anyone who wants drugs has access to them. In the suburbs, in the country, and in the city. It's irrefutable. Drug laws may make them less accessible, but not inaccessible. Where there is a demand there will be a supply.
(2) Otherwise law-abiding citizens are not deterred by the anti-drug laws. Almost all the lawyers I know smoke pot.
(3) Inner city crime is caused by the drug prohibition, for two reasons: (a) Since drugs are illegal, courts will not enforce contracts to buy and sell and therefore the trading parties must supply their own coercive apparatus (the gang) to enforce a transaction with the threat of violence, and (b) since the trade is illegal, and monopoly pricing creates optimal wealth, drug dealers must maintain a jurisdiction in which they are the only sellers -- and from that comes territoriality and wars between gangs.
(4) Billions of dollars in law enforcement money is spent shutting down drug operations, creating vacuums that will simply be filled by other drug providers. Meanwhile, the police who could otherwise be protecting citizens from violence in the street are out there enforcing drug laws. If all of that money were reallocated to public safety, can you imagine how low the crime rate would be?
(5) Non-violent drug offenders go to prison where they are exposed to terribly savagery and violence for a mainly economic crime. There they can be educated in other types of crime and/or participate in violent activities in prison.
(6) Because there are so many drug offenders in prison, the prisons are running out of space for the people who need to be incarcerated for safety reasons -- violent offenders. Furthermore, society is sending a message that light violence is not as bad as trade in black market goods when violent offenders get less severe sentences than drug offenders.
(7) Drugs would be safer and less expensive if they were legal. They could be regulated to prevent deadly doses and purity of substance, to avoid accidental overdose and consumption of unintended substances. Big pharmaceutical companies could make the drugs and operate in a competitive environment where they would be cheaper and less likely to create secondary crime (i.e., robbery to pay for a fix).
But every time people cite any of these reasons, the winning argument is always: "We need to protect the children! I don't want my kids to be able to get cocaine!" To that I say, maybe we should suck it up and accept a couple "Darwinian" casualties to facilitate the greater public good. Of course there will be downsides to drug legality. Some kids will get a hold of stuff and overdose, just like they do on beer. And beer is also already illegal for kids to consume. But they do it anyway.
Sorry to be so cold, but should the stupidity of children and the irresponsibility of some parents hold back the important public policy of safety from violence? That's how the issue should be framed in the political landscape. And I think there should be just as much outrage about it as there is about Iraq or health care or any other problems facing the U.S. right now.