Two things - the myth of the “non-violent drug user languishing away in prison” is just that - a myth. I don’t believe for one second that there are any significant number of people doing time because they decided to fire up a joint or a bong. What I do think is that people who are criminally inclined also enjoy their recreational drugs. Those that say if we only legalized X - we’d have half as many people in prison - are probably themselves smoking X. It just ain’t so, in my opinion.
Secondly, it’s objectively true that crime statistics (which you can believe or take with a grain of salt) show that violent crime as gone down over the course of the decades. Some of that is probably due to demographics - as a rule younger people commit more crimes than older ones. But also some of this is due to incarceration of violent offenders.
To me it seems like you can have empty prisons and dangerous streets or you can have full prisons and comparatively safer streets. While nothing is all or none, all black or all white, as a general rule the more offenders you incarcerate, the fewer crimes you will have. It just makes sense. Where you draw the line is of course open to question, but relatively speaking there will be a correlation.
We do send guys who sell crack to kids to prison though.
I don't care how "non-violent" they may be at that particular time, but drug-dealers aren't exactly known to be toothless softies. They are heavily armed with illegally obtained weapons.
I've never read of a major drug bust that didn't include: "Drugs, a large amount of cash and WEAPONS".