John, I don’t have the numbers to prove this, but I doubt if drug legalization would involve much in the way of costs. A key element in the case for legalization is that prohibition has significantly worsened the pathologies of drug use. Put another way, it drives people to Moonshine when all they really want is a Bud Lite. Prohibition gives a strong economic incentive for dealers to push a more destructive product range, forces up prices to exorbitant levels (which, of course, causes more crime) and substantially increases the risk that the drugs will be taken under dangerous or unsanitary conditions. Thus I would expect the costs of ‘treatment, counselling, and social disorder’ to fall substantially compared with present levels.
That’s not to deny that a decision to legalize drugs would bring no costs in its wake. Would the legalized use of currently banned substances be associated with some social disorder? Sure, just as drinking is today. On the whole, I suspect that the police would prefer to deal with, say, rowdy pot smokers (do they exist?) than a bunch of drunks. As to treatment and counselling costs, yes there would be some, just as there are many human activities, but, in the circumstances of a regulated, legal market rather than the unregulated mayhem now imposed on society by the drug warriors, they are unlikely to be extraordinary and would, I assume, be more than defrayed by the (modest) taxes that should be imposed on legalized drugs. It should be remembered that most people are not self-destructive : in late Victorian England almost all drugs were legal and society seemed, somehow, to survive and (a reactionary like me would argue) flourish
Now, who’s taken my opium?