You know, we waste so much time and so many resources on the so-called "war on drugs" it's absolutely awful. The fact of the matter is, we're filling up our prisons with people being booked on drug-related charges when in reality those resources could be used for stuff that's much more effective (i.e. getting murderers, rapists, etc. off the street).
But locking someone up because they choose to put some substance in their body? Are you serious? What's the point in that? Druggies will be druggies, and prison isn't going to change that, and neither are any other legal sanctions you might impose on them.
We each have our own individual autonomy (or at least we're supposed to, read my column America: Land of the Oppressed, Home of the Cowards which explains how we really don't, but that's a debate for another day), so why should the government say what I put into my body? The truth of the matter is, my body is my own, and it's nobody's business besides my own what I do with it. If I want to pierce my body, tattoo it from head to toe, have cosmetic surgery, whatever, it's my business. The same thing extends to what I eat, drink, or what drugs (prescription, non-prescription, or recreational) I put into it.
If someone wants to screw him/herself up by putting deadly or otherwise harmful substances into his/her body, more power to that person. I don't care if it's marijuana, cocaine, heroin, whatever. It's that person's body to do with whatever the hell he/she wants, quite frankly. I could care less what someone puts into their body. Those that truly want help and want to be over their addictions don't need to pay criminal penalties, they need a support system, so what purpose does punishing them serve? Those that are content with their lifestyle will continue it when they get out of jail, so again, what's the purpose of punishing them? In both cases, legal ramifications serve no purpose.
Decriminalizing and regulating all controlled substances would have a wide range of economic benefits, from reducing the cost to taxpayers to support so many inmates, to creating new jobs (vendors? regulations enforcement?), to the government making a huge profit from the ridiculous taxes they could impose on these substances (druggies will always be willing to pay whatever for their drugs).
There are health benefits to be had as well. Having some place to get clean needles among other things can help cut down the spread of AIDS and other IV-transmitted diseases. Marijuana has shown to be a potent painkiller and a natural medicine. Psilocybin (shrooms) have been documented to be a powerful treatment for cluster headaches, which I have suffered from for six years, and I'd gladly take those things for relief. The pain is awful. We already know of the health benefits of alcohol, but like other drugs, too much is never a good thing. Who's to say other drugs aren't the same as alcohol in this regard?
Now, being smart about the whole thing, you do have to have some rules in place. Much like it is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol (for good reason), it should also be illegal to drive under the influence of drugs. Furthemore, just as crimes committed under the influence of alcohol have stiffer penalties than those committed by a sober person, so should crimes committed under the influence of any drug. Also, addict parents should be required to either attend treatment or lose their children, much the same as alcoholic parents. Apply the same regulations to drugs as you do alcohol, and we have essentially no problems associated with decriminalization.
When it comes to drugs, the solution is simple: legalize it, regulate it, tax it. The benefits far outweigh any small risk involved, and personal freedom is preserved.