Obviously, every drug is dangerous,” says Nadelmann, including marijuana. But it’s also the case that the world will never be drug-free, no matter what we do. It hasn’t been drug-free for thousands of years. And a drug-free world would presumably be unbearable sometimes. The goal of those who favor legalization is to find the most tolerable way to live with drugs. Nadelmann believes that the best route is not prohibition, but “regulated legalization.”

As Nadelmann explains it, this stance envisions the following scenario: Drugs would not be completely unrestricted. There would be maximum doses and age restrictions. Young people would not to be given access to marijuana and cocaine, but every adult would be permitted to have a small amount of each drug for personal use. Every adult would also be able buy these drugs legally from a specific source, which could be called something like the National Drug Provider. And, of course, the government would regulate both the provider and its products.

And, if this were the case, this is how he imagines the consequences: Mafia-like cartels would no longer control drugs. Their business model, a gigantic profit margin made possible by prohibition, would be destroyed, and so would their power. Instead, the government would control drugs, taxing them the same way it taxes tobacco or alcohol. Instead of the mafia or warlords in Afghanistan, the tax office would be the one collecting the profits. And, instead of criminals, licensed providers would be selling the narcotics. In the future, all the billions that were being spent on the drug war — for soldiers, prisons and criminal prosecution — would go into health education. This would include drug prevention and addiction treatment, as well as the targeted fight against a black market for drugs that will form despite legalization.

Our Right to Poison: Lessons from the Failed War on Drugs – SPIEGEL