Opposition to the war on drugs is a fashionable opinion among the intelligentsia at present. To some, this means its end is inevitable. But the intelligentsia also went through a long period of opposition to capitalism. But, thankfully, reality and elite self interest preserved capitalism.
“Opposition to the war on drugs” is how its usually phrased. It’s rarer to hear people describe themselves as being for legalization of all drugs and rarer still for people to name specific drugs, heroin, cocaine, ect. People aren’t calling for legalizing drugs, they’re calling for drug dealers to not be punished. Can you “end the war on drugs” without legalizing them? In theory, you can. You could treat it like prostitution, where the government prevents it from taking place in the open but generally looks the other way. The prisons are not overflowing with prostitutes and pimps, and pimps don’t wage massive gang wars against one another.
Monopolizing the market through a massive gang infrastructure, as with drugs, is not profitable in the case of prostitution. It may be a matter of simple economics, the monopoly price for prostitution is low and the monopsony wage for the prostitute is so high that it just isn’t very lucrative to attempt to monopolize the market. It may be that it’s easier to monopolize drugs than prostitutes, a pile of drugs is unlikely to get up and walk out the door because the boss isn’t paying enough. Drugs can’t sell themselves.
If you decided tomorrow that drug dealers wouldn’t be punished, the strong incentive to create a monopoly through gang wars would only go stronger, as you no longer have to deal with the inconvenience of your ’employees’ being sent to prison just because they got caught with drugs. With the gang violence worse than ever, public pressure would be strong to punish the drug dealers, and even if they weren’t punished for drug dealing, they’d be punished for shooting each other. Whether or not they actually pull the trigger, drug dealers can be held accountable as conspirators. You’d have less drug dealers in prison, murder is harder to prove than drug dealing, but the people who have to live in gang infested neighborhoods would end up suffering more. The only places this would work would be in the relatively affluent areas where gang wars do not happen. Thus, “ending the drug war” could end up benefiting most the White hippie drug dealer in Boulder, Colorado.
One hope for “ending the drug war” without legalization is silk road. If under drug legalization silk road like places were not shut down, it could grow to the point where its prices are dramatically lower than those of the gangs and the gangs become unprofitable. But something tells me that Ross William Ulbricht is exactly the type of person law enforcement would like to go after in an environment where drugs are illegal but the laws are rarely enforced.