Prohibition is clearly working, or is it?
It depends on which side of that coin you are betting on and with what viewpoint you have regarding the deeply rooted question of scheduling substances for the various reasons and why these substances are prohibited in the first place.
So what exactly is the reasoning again?
I could be wrong, but I thought it was because the substances are dangerous either individually per experience, dosage, potential for addiction, and the propensity for abuse and overdose combined with all of the documented ill effects including physiological, psychological, and sociological damages subsequently ensuing for a majority of the population partaking in recreational usage.
So what exactly is the reasoning for making a powerful substance illegal because it is potentially too powerful for the masses to use properly, if at all?
For example, alcohol is still prohibited to those under the age of 21. Is that inherently unfair? If so, at what age does it become fair to prohibit alcohol? And what would be your reasoning for choosing that benchmark age?
One might say that they have declared that in their infinite wisdom reading and writing are too powerful of a device for the masses because they may use it improperly.
Generally speaking, I'd categorize myself as a devil's advocate to the devil's advocate. So, just because the masses of people think something is right (or wrong), doesn't mean it actually is right or wrong. Absolutism might not even exist and this entire world might be subjective and definitely relative, however, that is still in debate in the philosophical circles.
Regarding narcotics and for that matter all substances, there's still many problems associated with even lay-beverages like alcohol and it's a completely legitimate drug just as tobacco is, although with tobacco that's more the nicotine and other additive substances causing the extreme tendency for harm than the tobacco itself. So to use an argument against prohibition, one could begin with stating that legalization isn't exactly working either. Alcoholism is prevalent and moving violations involving persons under the influence occur on a regular and unfortunately many times on a fatal basis. Maybe a hybrid or syncretic system containing a bit of both systemic aspects that work (depending on one's ideology, but mostly to reduce the most harm in all reasonably foreseeable possibilities) would be the best option.
In that person's infinite wisdom, reading and writing might actually be too powerful for us animals, us primates, us hominds, even if we think that we truly are sapien sapiens, but it's not that people may use it improperly, but that at least a significant portion of the population will use it improperly and thusly causing harm. Politicians use words improperly all the time and they wreak a lot of havoc. Adolf Hitler used it extremely well and changed a nation into a industrialized murder machine all just for the sake of power, land, and wealth. For the record, I'm not anti-free-speech nor am I anti-prohibition, but I do believe that there should be reasonable constraints to make sure such power is used responsibly whenever power is unchecked.
For words (or in better terms ideas), there's libel and slander, critique and acclaim, heresy and validation, opinion and fact, fallacy and truth, empiricism and introspect, and so on. For substances, there's controls and measures, laws and enforcement, prescriptions and regulation, social norms and fringe subculture, and so on. Each embodiment of constraints allows for a system to be altered, amended, updated, and improved through iterative cycle after cycle in a very evolutionary and bottom-up methodology.
So, I'm responding to your claim that prohibiting narcotics completely and entirely is not working. To what degree is it not working? And by this particular implementation of prohibition "not working" does that by any means infer that prohibition is incorrect or somehow logically unsound and irrelevant to our culture, society, and progress in preventing harm? Essentially, just because this particular implementation of prohibition is not working does not mean that the principle of prohibition is incorrect.
That also goes for socioeconomic communism (with a lowercase c) whereby theoretically it could work under borderline ideal conditions. All historical implementations of it have gone under extreme scrutiny of those who think it could work with the label of bastardly or corrupted forms where the idea was utilized as a political motivation for gaining power instead of truly liberating the proletariat and bourgeoisie.
So, who exactly makes the constraints?
We, the people, through a framework of society that contains aspects of law, science, logic, and sentiment.
In the best of options, the most educated, wise, centered, balanced, insightful, enlightened, reasonable, moderate, empirical and logical, and those who have taken a full consideration for all ideology should be responsible for the making, implementing, enforcing, and revisiting the required framework as its performance changes through time.
At present, it's a democratic representative republic guided by the latest medical and scientific research in a multitude of disciplines from sociology, psychology, neuroscience, physiology, jurisprudence, and so on. A consensus is reached that would make the most sense both in principle and realistic implementation, but generally it does not and subsequently causes further problems.
So, what are the principles and realistic implementations with the most maximized results for keeping power safe from abuse whether it be words, substances, or weaponry? I'm not sure, but our current system is definitely not fraught without issues, problems, and maybe a crisis or two.
Our current system has remained stagnant and relatively unchanged since its founding a couple hundred years ago, whereby through elapsed time many exploits have been discovered and subsequently utilized to their full potential. This has left us with a tyranny of the election cycle, lobbying, and a lack of competence regarding many of those who are elected. This problem affects many issues including the prohibition on alcohol, the current war on drugs, and more.
Specifically regarding the war on drugs, prohibiting anything that is deemed dangerous including plants that essentially manufacture "dangerous" substances is an interesting dilemma. Knives are dangerous, but they aren't prohibited per se. Certain types are prohibited or heavily regulated because they are more dangerous than others or have a higher propensity to become dangerous. However, anything can be dangerous when used a certain way, but the likelihood and the degree to which something must be intentionally misused or that an item is designed with a certain natural tendency of use is the real issue.
Guns don't kill people, people kill people. This would be the mantra for someone who might liken it to the paradigm of narcotics by stating that drugs don't kill people, people kill people. I'm not so sure you can argue it as strongly when drugs distort the mind. Drugs distort the mind which in turn can lead to distorted people harming people whether it be themselves or not both indirectly and directly as a result of their distorted thinking. That's the difference between guns and drugs. Guns do not alter your mind so you are said to be of sound mind when making your decisions to utilize it as a weapon versus target practice on a shooting range. Drugs on the other hand distort your mind, your intelligence, your judgement, your ego, your sense of truth, your sense of reality, and thusly increase your potential for being of sound mind when making any decision whether it's more drugs or something else equally as harmful. Yet both guns and drugs are inherently dangerous and therefore regulated and so on. Guns just happen to be legal, at least to a select few, whereas most drugs are deemed too dangerous completely and are subsequently controlled.
Automatic weaponry and certain types of bombs are deemed illegal because of their propensity and designed natural tendency of use. They are made to kill people and incur vast destruction. Weapons of mass destruction are even illegal to many states by international treaty for the sheer fact that humankind has realized that nothing good can come of their use.
Measuring the collateral damage and using that as evidence for or against an idea has merit, but only in the pragmatic sense. The principles should probably still hold steadfast and remain the guide for the next implementation when changes becomes absolutely necessary as the systemic performance declines.