But even though you won't find a soul alive who thinks the repeal was a bad idea, we continue to live day after day with the disastrous consequences of a drug policy that is as misguided as was prohibition.
Consider the consequences of drug prohibition today: 500,000 people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails for nonviolent drug-law violations; 1.8 million drug arrests last year; tens of billions of taxpayer dollars expended annually to fund a drug war that 76% of Americans say has failed; millions now marked for life as former drug felons; many thousands dying each year from drug overdoses that have more to do with prohibitionist policies than the drugs themselves, and tens of thousands more needlessly infected with AIDS and Hepatitis C because those same policies undermine and block responsible public-health policies.
And look abroad. At Afghanistan, where a third or more of the national economy is both beneficiary and victim of the failed global drug prohibition regime. At Mexico, which makes Chicago under Al Capone look like a day in the park. And elsewhere in Latin America, where prohibition-related crime, violence and corruption undermine civil authority and public safety, and mindless drug eradication campaigns wreak environmental havoc.
All this, and much more, are the consequences not of drugs per se but of prohibitionist policies that have failed for too long and that can never succeed in an open society, given the lessons of history. Perhaps a totalitarian American could do better, but at what cost to our most fundamental values?
Just like you can't find a soul who will say that repeal of prohibition was a mistake, you won't find a soul who will tell you our current drug policy has erased the drug problem.
Yet we continue to treat drug policy as a hypothetical issue, focused on the potential consequences of reform, rather than the disastrous consequences of what we are doing now.
The question isn't just about the pharmacological impacts of drugs. The question is also about the damage our current regulatory regime is inflicting on our society, economy, and criminal justice system. The question is whether we are getting our money's worth from the $50 billion we spend each year on the drug war. The question is whether there are better ways to allocate our resources than by focusing the bulk of that money on drugs -- like marijuana -- that are probably less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.
But until we collectively -- as citizens -- make it clear to our political leaders that it is acceptable to talk about the consequences of our drug policy, as opposed to a blind focus on nothing but the consequences of drugs, we're never going to make any progress.
If we don't change, we're going to continue having hundreds of brutal murders occuring not just across the border, but also right here at home. And we're going to continue to have American citizens addicted to drugs, wasting their futures.
So we need to rethink this drug policy of ours, because it just isn't working. It never has, and until we find the courage to change, it never will.