1) The Informed Consumer - What if you legalized ALL drugs, including the crazy bath salts, and sold them at Walmart and Home Depot and Hannaford, RiteAid, etc.? The catch: you'd find them in the aisle with the rat poison, the D-CON, the Raid, the acetone, lamp oil, and paint thinner. And all the containers will have the skull & crossbones poison symbol and warn that it's not fit for human consumption and likely to result in pain and death. (This is assuming that there'd be any manufacturers willing to take the risk of marketing the products, which would now sell for peanuts since they'd no longer be black-market items - just plain old poison with mind altering effects.) Then, do what you will. Let informed consumers make their own choices about whether they essentially want to commit suicide. Maybe there'd be about 6 months of radical behavior incidents until the big die-off was over, but then I think things would settle down a bit.
After all, gasoline and paint thinner, model glue and nail polish remover are all currently legal and can be purchased without a prescription and without having to show your photo i.d. and sign a log book, as is required for the best of decongestants - pseudoephedrine. Yet, when I was a juvenile prosecutor, we had many instances of teens "huffing" these substances to get high. It's stupid, but you can't legislate against stupid. It's dangerous, brain-damaging, and deadly.
The best you can do is inform people about the risks, and let them choose how to behave. Even if it means their own death. Now I understand this initial position is a bit cavalier, but it's a thought experiment after all. Of course, like alcohol, minors would still be prohibited from purchase and use, and driving under the influence of such substances would be harshly penalized. An aside: years ago I had a case where I learned that you can be prosecuted for Operating Under the Influence while taking a prescription medication that impairs your driving ability "to the slightest degree." I'd never really thought of it before. I'd assumed if you were prescribed medication and took it according to the directions, you were okay. But no, you can be busted for driving if that stuff impairs you at all. My client, an ordinary middle-glass soccer mom, paid the price for coupling her prescribed medication with a drive in the mini-van. I guess it's lucky that my favorite driving drug - coffee - is an enhancer.
And also, it would be sad, I suppose, that a lot of addictive personalities would die off given free access. Or then again, would that happen? Perhaps those with addictions likely to drive them to death have already found means of getting enough drug supply to kill themselves despite current laws. Maybe the mortality rate wouldn't rise. Well, maybe there'd be a handful of novices who would o.d. on the first try, but if a manufacturer was going to put cocaine on the shelf for recreational purposes, I'd assume it would be watered down (like the true classic Coca-Cola) or would have a recommended dosage well under the death threshold.
And we would be compassionate. We would take all the funding (or part of it) thrown at the drug war, and offer free rehabilitation and counseling services to anybody who wanted help with a drug addiction. I don't believe anybody really WANTS to be addicted to drugs. By all accounts I've heard of, it's a lousy existence. And most accounts of what happened to people who took bath salts are so horrific that I should think usage would be the number one treatment for bath salts use. Who the heck would want to try that a second time?
2) The Cocktail Party - If all drugs were legalized, would America descend into an addictive, violent, drug-induced anarchy, with people randomly murdering, raping, and accidentally killing each other and themselves? I think not. For instance, there are alcoholic beverages of extreme potency, like Everclear and Jagermeister, and vodka, and whiskey. You can drink to the point of stupid and violent behavior very easily with these. You can drink to the point of death. But nobody I know does.
When you're lucky enough to go to a nice party with gracious and wealthy enough hosts that a wide range of beverages are offered, the choices range from Diet Pepsi all the way up to the hard stuff. Most of my colleagues and acquaintances do not rush to the hard liquor and drink themselves to vomiting near-oblivion. Most of the time, the decision is made based on personal circumstances. For instance, at most social events, I consider that I am a father of two, that I have a job I have to go to in the morning, that I don't like headaches, I don't like vomiting at all, and a criminal conviction would end my career and livelihood. So I have one or two beers and call it a night. Back in college, sure, everybody may have had some wild nights. But at that point in life one has few responsibilities. And there are some people who don't survive some of those wild nights. It's a risk that society painfully learned was worth living with during the failure of Prohibition 1.0.
Now imagine you're at a party and your host offers you Diet Coke, a beer, wine, marijuana, cocaine, LSD, PCP, or bath salts. What's your pleasure? Well, I personally don't know anybody who'd try the cocaine, LSD, PCP or bath salts. I'm sure such people exist, but they don't move in my circles. I know a few folks I imagine might try the marijuana, but I myself just hate smoke and smoking and things that make my clothes smell, so no thanks. The hardest I might go would be a scotch and soda, or maybe a double-bourbon and ginger ale (Jack Kerouac's drink). And I'll bet your circle of family and friends would probably engage in the same analysis. Also, as a sometimes host, I'd be uncomfortable offering people substances likely to cause addiction, violent behavior, death, property damage, vomiting, or bad odors. And if I had a guest who trashed my party while wired on bath salts or something, you can be sure they wouldn't be invited back next time.
Now, why'd I write this? I dunno. It's just been on my mind as billions of dollars in consumer spending and government aid both flow, in two parallel streams, to Mexico to enrich violent international criminals and prop up a government in danger of being overrun by them.