Writing in today's Washington Post, former Baltimore cops Peter Moskos and Stanford Franklin argue that "it's time to legalize drugs." Moskos and Franklin, both members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, emphasize that the war on drugs fosters violent, open-air drug dealing; that it needlessly endangers police officers; and that the alternative of "a legal and regulated free market," though "not a cure-all," would be "a vast improvement on the status quo," since "drug manufacturing and distribution [are] too dangerous to remain in the hands of unregulated criminals." They also propose what strikes me as the most viable route to reform:
We simply urge the federal government to retreat. Let cities and states (and, while we're at it, other countries) decide their own drug policies. Many would continue prohibition, but some would try something new. California and its medical marijuana dispensaries provide a good working example, warts and all, that legalized drug distribution does not cause the sky to fall.
Federalism would not only allow instructive experimentation; it would allow national politicians to avoid taking positions on emotionally charged local issues that the Constitution leaves to the states. Californians should not have to worry about the president's views on medical marijuana, and the president should not have to worry about the political ramifications of coming down on one side or the other.