At first glance, it’s not so easy to understand how ending the war on drugs benefits young people. After all, there’s little more frightening to a parent or frustrating to a teacher than dealing with a child in trouble with drugs including alcohol. We all want to protect our children from any potential impediments to their healthy development, but concerned adults everywhere are beginning to question whether the war on drugs is justified or if it’s even working. That is because youth today have unfettered access to a vast underground illicit market that supplies them all sorts of drugs cheaper and more powerful than ever. And despite our demands to abstain or delay their use, we know that most teens will try a substance by the time they graduate high school.

By criminalizing a common risky teen behavior, we have driven it further underground with our children growing comfortable lying to us about it and breaking the law to do it. This is disruptive to our families and leads our children to also become unwitting targets for police action, sometimes with life-altering consequences. Now more than ever, parents and educators need reality-based policies that challenge the cynical notion that “there is no alternative” to the war on drugs trademark zero-tolerance approach. We believe that another world is indeed possible.