First, we have vastly increased the proportion of our population in prisons. The United States now incarcerates people at a rate nearly five times that of the world average. In part, that’s because the number of people in prison for drug offenses rose roughly from 41,000 in 1980 to nearly 500,000 today . Until the war on drugs, our incarceration rate was roughly the same as that of other countries.
Second, we have empowered criminals at home and terrorists abroad. One reason many prominent economists have favored easing drug laws is that interdiction raises prices, which increases profit margins for everyone, from the Latin drug cartels to the Taliban. Former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia this year jointly implored the United States to adopt a new approach to narcotics, based on the public health campaign against tobacco.
Read more from "Drugs Won the War" here