Since the Nixon era we have waged the War on Drugs, the goal of which is to eliminate the supply of drugs. To say that this approach has not worked very well is a gross understatement. Studies show that the United States has among the highest rates of drug use in the world. The War on Drugs has made many criminals very rich, powerful and evil. In Mexico alone, drug-related violence has resulted in over 100,000 deaths since 2006.
The campaign to reduce tobacco use has succeeded much, much more than the war on drugs. Far fewer of us smoke and I don't know of a tobacco company that murders people. George Schultz and Pedro Aspe have some sensible suggestions for a War on Demand:
Decriminalize the small-scale possession of drugs for personal use.
Create well-staffed and first-class treatment centers where people are willing to go without fear of being prosecuted and with the confidence that they will receive effective care, as in Portugal.
Experiment with solutions. Which advertising messages are most effective? How can treatment be made effective for different kinds of drugs and different degrees of addiction? We should have the patience to evaluate what works and what doesn’t.
But we must get started now.