In recent weeks, voices from all sides of the political spectrum have been asking the question:
Should now prohibited drugs be legalized?
Voices ranging from televangelist Pat Robertson to liberal commentator Fareed Zakaria to conservative columnist George Will all seem to have reached the same conclusion - the war on drugs has been, and continues to be, an expensive failure.
What's more, the prosecution of this war has led the United States to be what Zakaria terms an "Incarceration Nation."
Robertson got the current discussion started when he noted on his television program, "The 700 Club," that "We here in America make up 5 percent of the world's population, but we make up 25 percent of the jailed prisoners."
Zakaria notes in a column in Time magazine that the U.S. prison population has quadrupled since 1980 - and that more than half of our federal inmates today have drug convictions. Of the 1.66 million drug arrests in 2009, four out of five were simply for possession.
Will points out in an op-ed piece in The Washington Post that "America spends 20 times more on drug control than all the world's poppy and coca growers earn." He also points out that when the United States attempts to squeeze a supplying nation, it simply produces a "balloon effect - squeeze a balloon in one spot, it bulges in another."
He notes that the $8 billion "Plan Columbia" reduced coca growth there by 65 percent - but it increased by 40 percent in Peru and doubled in Bolivia. Interdiction efforts in Florida to stop the importation of drugs in small planes and boats resulted in the creation of the drug route through Mexico - and caused the current mayhem there.
Will is not advocating legalization, just citing facts. Zakaria and Robertson think the whole war needs to be rethought. All are astonished by the cost of the battle - Zakaria says $1 trillion since 1980 - not to mention the establishment of a huge prison population.
It is apparent that our whole approach to drugs has to be rethought. Legalization gets rid of drug trafficking overnight. But how many more people will become drug dependent if they can be purchased in a neighborhood store?
It is a dilemma, but change is needed. What we are doing now is not working.
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.