The following is reprinted from The Pragmatist, August 1988.  Some of
  the examples and data are dated, but the arguments are still

  There are no panaceas in the world but, for social afflictions,
  legalizing drugs comes possibly as close as any single policy could.
  Removing legal penalties from the production, sale and use of
  "controlled substances" would alleviate at least a dozen of our biggest
  social or political problems.
  With proposals for legalization finally in the public eye, there
  might be a use for some sort of catalog listing the benefits of
  legalization. For advocates, it is an inventory of facts and arguments.
  For opponents, it is a record of the problems they might be helping to
  The list is intended both as a resource for those wishing to
  participate in the legalization debate and as a starting point for
  those wishing to get deeper into it.
  Are we ready to stop wringing our hands and start solving problems?
  1.  Legalizing drugs would make our streets and homes safer.
  As Jeffrey Rogers Hummel notes ("Heroin: The Shocking Story," April
  1988), estimates vary widely for the proportion of violent and property
  crime related to drugs.  Forty percent is a midpoint figure.  In an
  October 1987 survey by Wharton Econometrics for the U.S. Customs
  Service, the 739 police chiefs responding "blamed drugs for a fifth of
  the murders and rapes, a quarter car thefts, two-fifths of robberies
  and assaults and half the nation's burglaries and thefts."
  The theoretical and statistical links between drugs and crime are
  well established.  In a 2 1/2-year study of Detroit crime, Lester P.
  Silverman, former associate director of the National Academy of
  Sciences' Assembly of Behavior and Social Sciences, found that a 10
  percent increase in the price of heroin alone "produced an increase of
  3.1 percent  total property crimes in poor nonwhite neighborhoods."
  Armed robbery jumped 6.4 percent and simple assault by 5.6 percent
  throughout the city.
  The reasons are not difficult to understand.  When law enforcement
  restricts the supply of drugs, the price of drugs rises.  In 1984, a
  kilogram of cocaine worth $4000 in Colombia sold at wholesale for
  $30,000, and at retail in the United States for some $300,000.  At the
  time a Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman noted,
  matter-of-factly, that the wholesale price doubled in six months "due
  to crackdowns on producers and smugglers in Columbia and the U.S."
  There are no statistics indicating the additional number of people
  killed or mugged thanks to the DEA's crackdown on cocaine.
  For heroin the factory-to-retail price differential is even
  greater. According to U.S. News & World report, in 1985 a gram of pure
  heroin in Pakistan cost $5.07, but it sold for $2425 on the street in
  America--nearly a five-hundredfold jump.
  The unhappy consequence is that crime also rises, for at least four
  *   Addicts must shell out hundreds of times the cost of goods, so
  they often must turn to crime to finance their habits.  The higher the
  price goes, the more they need to steal to buy the same amount.
  *   At the same time, those who deal or purchase the stuff find
  themselves carrying extremely valuable goods, and become attractive
  targets for assault.
  *  Police officers and others suspected of being informants for law
  enforcement quickly become targets for reprisals.
  *  The streets become literally a battleground for "turf" among
  competing dealers, as control over a particular block or intersection
  can net thousands of additional drug dollars per day.
  Conversely, if and when drugs are legalized, their price will
  collapse and so will the sundry drug-related motivations to commit
  crime.  Consumers will no longer need to steal to support their habits.
  A packet of cocaine will be as tempting to grab from its owner as a
  pack of cigarettes is today.  And drug dealers will be pushed out of
  the retail market by known retailers.  When was the last time we saw
  employees of Rite Aid pharmacies shoot it out with Thrift Drugs for a
  corner storefront?
  When drugs become legal, we will be able to sleep in our homes and
  walk the streets more safely.  As one letter-writer to the Philadelphia
  Inquirer put it, "law-abiding citizens will be able to enjoy not living
  in fear of assault and burglary."

  2.  It would put an end to prison overcrowding.
  Prison overcrowding is a serious and persistent problem.  It makes
  the prison environment, violent and faceless to begin with, even more
  dangerous and dehumanizing.
  According to the 1988 Statistical Abstract of the United States,
  between 1979 and 1985 the number of people in federal and state prisons
  and local jails grew by 57.8 percent, nine time faster than the general
  Governments at all levels keep building more prisons, but the number
  of prisoners keeps outpacing the capacity to hold them.  According to
  the Federal Bureau of Prisons' 1985 Statistical Report, as of September
  30 of that year federal institutions held 35,959 prisoners-41 percent
  over the rated prison capacity of 25,638.  State prisons were 114
  percent of capacity in 1986.
  Of 31,346 sentenced prisoners in federal institutions, those in for
  drug law violations were the largest single category, 9487. (A total of
  4613 were in prison but not yet sentenced under various charges.)
  Legalizing drugs would immediately relieve the pressure on the
  prison system, since there would no longer be "drug offenders" to
  incarcerate. And, since many drug users would no longer need to commit
  violent or property crime to pay for their habits, there would be fewer
  "real" criminals to house in the first place. Instead of building more
  prisons, we could pocket the money and still be safer.
  Removing the 9487 drug inmates would leave 26,472.  Of those, 7200
  were in for assault, burglary, larceny-theft, or robbery.  If the
  proportion of such crimes that is related to drugs is 40 percent,
  without drug laws another 2900 persons would never have made it to
  federal prison.  The inmates who remained would be left in a less
  cruel, degrading environment. If we repealed the drug laws, we could
  eventually bring the prison population down comfortably below the
  prison's rated capacity.
  3.  Drug legalization would free up police resources to fight crimes
  against people and property.
  The considerable police efforts now expended against drug activity
  and drug-related crime could be redirected toward protecting innocent
  people from those who would still commit crime in the absence of drug
  laws.  The police could protect us more effectively, as it could focus
  resources on catching rapists, murderers and the remaining perpetrators
  of crimes against people and property.
  4.  It would unclog the court system.
  If you are accused of a crime, it takes months to bring you to
  trial. Guilty or innocent, you must live with the anxiety of impending
  trial until the trial finally begins.  The process is even more
  sluggish for civil proceedings.
  There simply aren't enough judges to handle the skyrocketing
  caseload. Because it would cut crime and eliminate drugs as a type of
  crime, legislation would wipe tens of thousands of cases off the court
  dockets across the continent, permitting the rest to move sooner and
  faster. Prosecutors would have more time to handle each case; judges
  could make more considered opinions.
  Improved efficiency at the lower levels would have a ripple effect
  on higher courts.  Better decisions in the lower courts would yield
  fewer grounds for appeals, reduing the caseloads of appeals courts; and
  in any event there would be fewer cases to review in the first place.

  5.   It would reduce official corruption.
  Drug-related police corruption takes one of two major forms.
  Police officers can offer drug dealers protection in their districts
  for a share of the profits (or demand a share under threat of
  exposure). Or they can seize dealer's merchandise for sale themselves.
  Seven current or former Philadelphia police officers were indicted
  May 31 on charges of falsifying records of money and drugs confiscated
  from dealers. During a house search, one man turned over $20,000 he had
  made from marijuana sales, but the officers gave him a "receipt" for
  $1870. Another dealer, reports The Inquirer, "told the grand jury he
  was charged with possession of five pounds of marijuana, although 11
  pounds were found in his house."
  In Miami, 59 officers have been fired or suspended since 1985 for
  suspicion of wrongdoing.  The police chief and investigators expect
  the number eventually to approach 100.  As The Palm Beach Post
  reported, "That would mean about one in 100 officers on the thousand
  man force will have been tainted by one form of scandal or another."
  Most of the 59 have been accused of trafficking, possessing or
  using illegal drugs.  In the biggest single case, 17 officers allegedly
  participated in a ring that stole $15 million worth of cocaine from
  dealers "and even traffic violators."
  What distinguishes the Miami scandal is that "Police are alleged to
  be drug traffickers themselves, not just protectors of criminals who
  are engaged in illegal activities," said The post.  According to James
  Frye, a criminologist at American University in Washington, the gravity
  of the situation in Miami today is comparable to Prohibition-era
  Chicago in the 1920s and '30s.
  It is apt comparison.  And the problem is not limited to Miami and
  Philadelphia.  The astronomical profits from the illegal drug trade
  are a powerful incentive on the part of law enforcement agents to
  partake from the proceeds.
  Legalizing the drug trade outright would eliminate this inducement
  to corruption and help to clean up the police's image.  Eliminating
  drug-related corruption cases would further reduce the strain on the
  courts, freeing judges and investigators to handle other cases more
  thoroughly and expeditiously.

  6.  Legalization would save tax money.
  Efforts to interdict the drug traffic alone cost $6.2 billion in
  1986, according to Wharton Econometrics of Bala Cynwyd, Pa.  If we ad
  the cost of trying and incarcerating users, traffickers, and those who
  commit crime to pay for their drugs, the tab runs well above $10
  The crisis in inmate housing would disappear, saving taxpayers the
  expense of building more prisons in the future.
  As we've noted above, savings would be redirected toward better
  police protection and speedier judicial service.  Or it could be
  converted into savings for taxpayers.  Or the federal portion of the
  costs could be applied toward the budget deficit.  For a change, it's a
  happy problem to ponder.  But it takes legalization to make it
  7.  It would cripple organized crime.
  The Mafia (heroin), Jamaican gangs (crack), and the Medellin Cartel
  (cocaine) stand to lose billions in drug profits from legalization.
  On a per-capita basis, members of organized crime, particularly at the
  top, stand to lose the most from legalizing the drug trade.
  The underworld became big business in the United States when
  alcohol was prohibited.  Few others would risk setting up the
  distribution networks, bribing officials or having to shoot up a
  policeman or competitor once in a while.  When alcohol was
  re-legalized, reputable manufacturers took over. The risk and the high
  profits went out of the alcohol trade.  Even if they wanted to keep
  control over it, the gangsters could not have targeted every
  manufacturer and every beer store.
  The profits from illegal alcohol were minuscule compared to the
  yield from today's illegal drugs.  They are the underworld's last
  great, greatest, source of illegal income--dwarfing anything to be made
  fromgambling, prostitution or other vice.
  Legalizing drugs would knock out this huge prop from under organized
  crime.  Smugglers and pushers would have to go aboveboard or go out of
  business.  There simply wouldn't be enough other criminal endeavors to
  employ them all.
  If we are concerned about the influence of organized crime on
  government, industry and our own personal safety, we could strike no
  single more damaging blow against today's gangsters than to legalize
  8.  Legal drugs would be safer.  Legalization is a consumer protection
  Because it is illegal, the drug trade today lacks many of the
  consumer safety features common to other markets:  instruction sheets,
  warning labels, product quality control, manufacturer accountability.
  Driving it underground makes any product, including drugs, more
  dangerous than it needs to be.
  Nobody denies that currently illegal drugs can be dangerous.  But so
  can aspirin, countless other over-the-counter drugs and common
  household items; yet the proven hazards of matches, modeling glue and
  lawn mowers are not used as reasons to make them all illegal.
  Practically anything can kill if used in certain ways.  Like heroin,
  salt can make you sick or dead if you take enough of it.  The point is
  to learn what the threshold is, and to keep below it.  That many things
  can kill is not a reason to prohibit them all--it is a reason to find
  out how to handle products to provide the desired action safely.  The
  same goes for drugs.
  Today's drug consumer literally doesn't know what he's buying.  The
  stuff is so valuable that sellers have an incentive to "cut" (dilute)
  the product with foreign substances that look like the real thing.
  Most street heroin is only 3 to 6 percent pure;  street cocaine, 10 to
  15 percent.
  Since purity varies greatly, consumers can never be really sure how
  much to take to produce the desired effects.  If you're used to 3
  percent heroin and take a 5 percent dose, suddenly you've nearly
  doubled your intake.
  Manufacturers offering drugs on the open market would face different
  incentives than pushers.  They rely on name-brand recognition to build
  market share, and on customer loyalty to maintain it.  There would be
  a powerful incentive to provide a product of uniform quality:  killing
  customers or losing them to competitors is not a proven way to
  success. Today, dealers can make so much off a single sale that the
  incentive to cultivate a clientele is weak. In fact, police persecution
  makes it imperative to move on, damn the customers.
  Pushers don't provide labels or instructions, let alone mailing
  addresses.  The illegal nature of the business makes such things
  unnecessary or dangerous to the enterprise.  After legalization,
  pharmaceutical companies could safely try to win each other's
  customers--or guard against liability suits--with better information
  and more reliable products.
  Even pure heroin on the open market would be safer than today's
  impure drugs.  As long as customers know what they're getting and what
  it does, they can adjust their dosages to obtain the intended effect
  Information is the best protection against the potential hazards of
  drugs or any other product.  Legalizing drugs would promote consumer
  health and safety.

  9.  Legalization would help stem the spread of AIDS and other
  As D.R. Blackmon notes ("Moral Deaths," June 1988), drug
  prohibition has helped propagate AIDS among intravenous drug users.
  Because IV drug users utilize hypodermic needles to inject heroin
  and other narcotics, access to needles is restricted.  The dearth of
  needles leads users to share them.  If one IV user has infected blood
  and some enters the needle as it is pulled out, the next user may shoot
  the infectious agent directly into his own bloodstream.
  Before the AIDS epidemic, this process was already known to spread
  other diseases, principally hepatitis B.  Legalizing drugs would
  eliminate the motivation to restrict the sale of hypodermic needles.
  With needles cheap and freely available, the drug users would have
  little need to share them and risk acquiring someone else's virus.
  Despite the pain and mess involved, injection became popular
  because, as The Washington Times put it, "that's the way to get the
  biggest, longest high for the money."  Inexpensive, legal heroin, on
  the other hand, would enable customers to get the same effect (using a
  greater amount) from more hygienic methods such as smoking or
  swallowing--cutting further into the use of needles and further slowing
  the spread of AIDS.
  10. Legalization would halt the erosion of other personal liberties.
  Hundreds of governments and corporations have used the alleged
  costs of drugs to begin testing their employees for drugs.
  Pennsylvania Rep. Robert Walker has embarked on a crusade to withhold
  the federal money carrot from any company or agency that doesn't
  guarantee a "drug-free workplace."
  The federal government has pressured foreign countries to grant
  access to bank records so it can check for "laundered" drug money.
  Because drug dealers handle lots of cash, domestic banks are now
  required to report cash deposits over $10,000 to the Internal Revenue
  Service for evidence of illicit profit.
  The concerns (excesses?) that led to all of these would disappear
  ipso facto with drg legalization.  Before drugs became big business,
  investors could put their money in secure banks abroad without fear of
  harassment. Mom-and-pop stores could deposit their cash receipts
  unafraid that they might look like criminals.
  Nobody makes a test for urine levels of sugar or caffeine a
  requirement for employment or grounds for dismissal.  However, were
  they declared illegal these would certainly become a lot riskier to
  use, and hence a possible target for testing "for the sake of our
  employees."  Legalizing today's illegal drugs would make them safer,
  deflating the drive to test for drug use.

  11.  It would stabilize foreign countries and make them safer to live
  in and travel to.
  The connection between drug traffickers and and guerrilla groups is
  fairly well documented (see "One More Reason," August 1987).  South
  American revolutionaries have developed a symbiotic  relationship with
  with coca growers and smugglers:  the guerrillas protect the growers
  and smugglers in echange for cash to finance their subversive
  activities.  in Peru, competing guerrilla groups, the Shining Path and
  the Tupac Amaru, fight for the lucrative right to represent coca
  farmers before drug traffickers.
  Traffickers themselves are well prepared to defend their crops
  against intruding government forces.  A Peruvian military helicopter
  was destroyed with bazooka fire in March, 1987, and 23 police officers
  were killed.  The following June, drug dealers attacked a camp of
  national guardsmen in Venezuela, killing 13.
  In Colombia, scores of police officers, more than 20 judges, two
  newspaper editors, the attorney general and the justice minister have
  been killed in that country's war against cocaine traffickers.  Two
  supreme court justices, including the court president, have resigned
  following death threats.  The Palace of Justice was sacked in 1985 as
  guerrillas destroyed the records of dozens of drug dealers.
  "This looks like Beirut," said the mayor of Medellin, Colombia,
  after a bomb ripped apart a city block where the reputed head of the
  Medellin Cartel lives.  It "is a waning of where the madness of the
  violence that afflicts us can bring us."
  Legalizing the international drug trade would affect organized
  crime and subversion abroad much as it would in the United States.  A
  major source for guerrilla funding would disappear.  So would the
  motive for kidnapping or assassinating officials and private
  individuals.  As in the United States, ordinary Colombians and
  Peruvians once again could walk the streets and travel the roads
  without fear of drug-related violence.  Countries would no longer be
  paralyzed by smugglers.
  12.  Legalization would repair U.S. relations with other countries and
  curtail anti-American sentiment around the world.
  a. When Honduran authorities spirited away alleged drug lord Juan
  Matta Ballesteros and had him extradited to the United States in April,
  Hondurans rioted in the streets and demonstrated for days at the U.S.
  embassy in Tegucigulpa.
  The action violated Honduras's constitution, which prohibits
  extradition.  Regardless of what Matta may have done, many Hondurans
  viewed the episode as a flagrant violation of their little country's
  laws, just to satisfy the wishes of the colossus up North.
  b.  When the U.S. government, in July 1986, sent Army troops and
  helicopters to raid cocaine factories in Bolivia, Bolivians were
  outraged. The constitution "has been trampled," said the president of
  Bolivia's House of Representatives.  The country's constitution
  requires congressional approval for any foreign military presence.
  c.  One thousand coca growers marched through the capital, La Paz,
  chanting "Death to the United States" and "Up with Coca" last May in
  protest over a U.S.-sponsored bill to prohibit most coca production.
  In late June, 5000 angry farmers overran a U.S. Drug Enforcement
  Administration jungle base, demanding the 40 American soldiers and
  drug agents there leave immediately.
  U.S. pressure on foreign governments to fight their domestic drug
  industries has clearly reinforced the image of America as an
  imperialist bully, blithely indifferent to the concerns of other
  peoples.  To Bolivian coca farmers, the U.S. government is not a beacon
  of freedom, but a threat to their livelihoods.  To many Hondurans it
  seems that their government will ignore its own constitution on request
  from Uncle Sam.  Leftists exploit such episodes to fan nationalistic
  sentiment to promote their agendas.
  Legalizing the drug trade would remove some of the reasons to hate
  America and deprive local politicians of the chance to exploit them.
  The U.S. would have a new opportunity to repair its reputation in an
  atmosphere of mutual respect.