The use of drugs has always been a part of human culture. Some drugs (like alcohol) have traditionally been more socially accepted than others (like marijuana or cocaine). The paradigm of drug use in the United States has been continuously evolving and is changing more and more rapidly as generational biases shift.
Religion and politics have always been, for better or worse, closely intertwined in America. This connection explains why the ‘prohibition era’ came about in the United States, where a blanket ban on alcohol caused the rise of organized crime syndicates like the Italian Mafia.
To this day, organized crime syndicates have made billions by selling illegal goods on the black market. Without a doubt, the most lucrative commodity on the black market is drugs.
Americans have slowly begun to realize that the only way to stop organized crime from profiting from selling drugs is to legalize and regulate them through official channels. The proof of this is all the US states and territories that have decriminalized or outright legalized marijuana.
While marijuana has never been as massive a money-maker for organized crime (nowhere near as lucrative as drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines), recent legalization efforts have shown that it is possible to regulate these substances.
However, there is still a lot of cultural resistance to the legalization of many drugs. While marijuana has slowly been less and less vilified through popular culture, other drugs that are more notoriously addictive are still taboo.
The history of the US war on drugs has meant that the issue of drug addiction has been handled by criminal law enforcement rather than public health. This approach is one of the key reasons why the US has the highest prison population in the world.