They believe that by sending such a large number of drug offenders to prison, the war on drugs has reduced the prison space available for other offenders.
This increased incarceration rate not only costs tax payers more to maintain, it could possibly increase crime by crowding violent offenders out of prison cells and replacing them with drug offenders.
Proponents of drug decriminalization generally support the use of fines or other punishments to replace prison terms, and often propose systems whereby illegal drug users who are caught would be fined, but would not receive a permanent criminal record as a result.
Proposed ideas range from full legalization which would completely remove all forms of government control, to various forms of regulated legalization, where drugs would be legally available, but under a system of government control which might mean for instance: The regulated legalization system would probably have a range of restrictions for different drugs, depending on their perceived risk, so while some drugs would be sold over the counter in pharmacies or other licensed establishments, drugs with greater risks of harm might only be available for sale on licensed premises where use could be monitored and emergency medical care made available.Examples of drugs with different levels of regulated distribution in most countries include: caffeine (coffee, tea), nicotine (tobacco), and ethyl alcohol (beer, wine, spirits).The 1988 United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances made it mandatory for the signatory countries to "adopt such measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offences under its domestic law" (art.3, § 1) all the activities related to the production, sale, transport, distribution, etc.Full legalization is often proposed by groups such as libertarians who object to drug laws on moral grounds, while regulated legalization is suggested by groups such as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition who object to the drug laws on the grounds that they fail to achieve their stated aims and instead greatly worsen the problems associated with use of prohibited drugs, but who acknowledge that there are harms associated with currently prohibited drugs which need to be minimized.
Not all proponents of drug re-legalization necessarily share a common ethical framework, and people may adopt this viewpoint for a variety of reasons.
In particular, favoring drug legalization does not imply approval of drug use.
Drug decriminalization calls for reduced control and penalties compared to existing laws.
The Convention distinguishes between the intent to traffic and personal consumption, stating that the latter should also be considered a criminal offence, but "subject to the constitutional principles and the basic concepts of [the state’s] legal system" (art. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) defines decriminalization as the removal of a conduct or activity from the sphere of criminal law; depenalisation signifying merely a relaxation of the penal sanction exacted by law.
Decriminalization usually applies to offences related to drug consumption and may include either the imposition of sanctions of a different kind (administrative) or the abolition of all sanctions; other (noncriminal) laws then regulate the conduct or activity that has been decriminalized.
Drug legalization calls for a return to the pre-20th century situation in which almost all drugs were legal.