The Tyee has published my article Legalizing All Drugs: What If Mexico's Ex-Prez Is Right? It's a discussion of the proposal by former president Vicente Fox's argument that legalizing all drugs is preferable to the status quo. Click through for the full article, which includes some appalling statistics. My conclusion:
Nations around the world have tried everything to deter the drug trade, from gentle rehabilitation to beheading, without effect. Vicente Fox's argument is that if you can't beat them, buy them out. Take over the business, become the middleman between producers and consumers, sell drugs in reasonably safe form, and skim off a nice slab of tax revenues that would otherwise go to the cartels. (Of course, you might have to pay off a lot of cartel personnel, if only to prevent them from blowing up legal drug outlets.)
Several U.S. states are now experimenting with legal drug-dealing; Colorado expects to make over $100 million this year from its tax on marijuana. Uruguay, under its president José Mujica, is doing something very similar.
The attraction of taxing the daylights out of a captive market of addicts is not lost on most politicians; they do it with tobacco, and they run lotteries after generations of opposing gambling. It's easy to imagine legal marijuana (and then other drugs) in one jurisdiction after another, with everyone free to get high or not. The revenue stream would simply go into government accounts, not those of the cartels.
But those revenues would still have to pay for cops and paramedics and social workers. Some dealers would sell cheaper, untaxed drugs, and would find a ready market. New synthetic drugs with nasty consequences might make it onto the market as well, creating new problems in public health. The jails wouldn't empty, and people would still die from drug misuse or abuse.
So while I respect Vicente Fox's courage in taking his position, the best that can be said for it is that all-out legalization is a form of harm reduction. It would reduce the carnage and personal and social damage, but it would not eliminate them.
That dream will not come true until we find out what makes the hole in the human soul that drugs pretend to fill up.