The drug war is largely a war on marijuana smokers. In 2008, there were 847,863 marijuana arrests in the U.S., almost 90 percent for simple possession. At a time when state and local governments are laying off police, firefighters, and teachers, this country continues to spend enormous public resources criminalizing Americans who prefer marijuana to martinis. The end result of this ongoing culture war is not necessarily lower rates of use.
The U.S. has higher rates of marijuana use than the Netherlands, where marijuana is legally available. Decriminalization is a long overdue step in the right direction. Taxing and regulating marijuana would render the drug war obsolete. As long as organized crime controls distribution, marijuana consumers will come into contact with sellers of such hard drugs as cocaine and heroin. This “gateway” is a direct result of marijuana prohibition.