Okay, let's see. I'll agree with Cornbread that the legalization should be done in steps.
Mookie - I believe that most "hard" drugs are only hard because of their illegality. Look at cocaine. The men working in Columbia picking it eat it all day long. But it does nothing more to them than a little buzz. So, clearly, there are points that you can take it and it won't hurt you. Right? Then they make cocaine out of it. It becomes more potent - and more dangerous. Partly because the high is stronger and there is more opportunity to get hooked. But mostly because drug dealers cut it with other, mostly unknown, substances. And then they give it to their distributers who also cut it. And on down the line through 10 people or so. By the time it gets to the consumer, it's hardly recognizable. Then the inner city dealers get it, cook it with baking soda, and voila! You've got crack. A faster high (it lasts about 5-10 minutes) which makes it more addictive.
Now what I'm saying is this: if you had a choice between government coke which had been approved by the FDA or some that the guy in the overcoat on the corner was selling, which would you choose? I'd choose the government stuff. And I think the vast majority of people would agree with me. People are smarter than we give them credit for (except Padres fans).
What I'm saying is that I think that a little government competition could drive drug dealers out of business. Which would bring stability to the third world (Afghanistans biggest export is heroin), give our police more time to work on real crime, cut down on real crime (if you can afford heroin by working at McDonalds, would you risk breaking into somebody's house?), cut taxes (around half of our tax money goes to fighting the drug war in one form or another), and people would trust the police more.
wrveres - I believe that you mean that it's an irresponsible argument. There is nothing hypocritical about it.
Hootie - I'll agree with you in that Janet Jackson should have known better and that parents should decide what their children see. However, Mookie is right that our society should learn to relax. In 1920, it was considered scandalous for a man to appear in any public arena other than prize-fighting (with its all-male audience) with his shirt off. Children raised not seeing men with their shirts off were naturally a bit giggly and curious as the first daring shirtless men began appearing on beaches, in magazines, and in movies. Today, because it's what children are raised with, no one thinks of a topless male as a threat to the morality of children. After a similar period with topless women (or even fully nude adults), the children will adjust (a lot faster than their parents, probably), life will go on, and police can go catch real criminals. Remember: children are born naked. They seem to like nothing better than getting naked. It's adults who teach them what parts of their bodies are and are not shameful to expose. A child has no natural guilt about this at all.
Of course, I don't tell any of my students any of this because I'm not their mother. I don't want a nanny government and it would be hypocritical for me to act as one.
Finally - I think that we need to look at prohibition to understand from a historical perspective what we're going through now.
-The saloons went underground and became speakeasies. There were lots of them. The 16,000 saloons in New York City, for example, became (depending on whose estimate you believe) from 32,000 to more than 100,000 "speaks." Unlike the saloons, which were men-only institutions, the speak-easies welcomed women, and the women came.
-Supplying the speakeasies with the necessary beer, wine, and liquor required organization. It was also a crime. Hence, the birth of organized crime. Paying off the local, state, and federal authorities required some organization too—and no small amount of money.
-Due to the outrageously inflated alcohol prices caused by Prohibition, money was no problem. In one year, Al Capone made $60 million (the equivalent of about $2 billion today) in liquor sales alone—a regular Bill Gates.
-Mexico was wet, and Canada was far from dry. The border towns, both north and south, were well supplied with Jos Cuervo and Canadian Club.
-Beer brewing, wine making, and distilling became common practices in the home. An enterprising home brewer could make enough liquid refreshment to give as gifts or even sell. (When selling, of course, one had to be careful: one did not want to be caught by the feds or, worse, by the mob.)
-Grain alcohol was legal when sold for "industrial use only." With the right alterations, however, it became safe to drink and, with the right recipe, occasionally palatable. One could mix up a batch of this in the bathroom; hence, bathtub gin.
-The California grape growers, no longer permitted to make wine, produced a grape juice product known as Vine-Glo. The Vine-Glo literature carefully instructed buyers what not to do, because, if they did those things, they would have wine in sixty days. The demand for grape juice grew dramatically. In 1919, 97,000 acres were devoted to growing grapes for "juice." By 1926, it was 681,000 acres. In 1929, the U.S. government loaned the grape growers money to expand even further.
-Beer with an alcohol content of less than one-half-of-one percent (named "near beer," although many claimed that those who gave it that name were lacking in depth perception) was legal. In order to make it, however, one had to make regular beer and then boil off the alcohol. Every so often, somebody forgot to take that last step and real beer accidentally wound up for sale in speakeasies (Oops).
-All you had to do to stay entirely within the law was get sick. The Eighteenth Amendment only prohibited alcohol for "beverage purposes." Medicinal alcohol was perfectly legal and, for some unknown reason, doctors began prescribing more and more of it during the 1920s. In addition, various elixirs, tonics, and other patent medicines available over-the-counter without prescriptions relied heavily upon the medicinal qualities of alcohol. (Very heavily.)
What happened when alcohol was prohibited is this: Usage went through the roof, the product was inferior, and it gave rise to organized crime.
What's happening today: Usage is very high, the product is inferior, and we've got the second coming of organized crime.
Finally, I'll leave you with this thought: If you look at a chart of the murder rate in the United States, you'll see a big spike every single time that a president promised a "war on drugs" or to get tough on drugs, etc.