Collecting the best books mentioned on hacker news, reddit and other places
The issue with this line of thinking is that it is based on the assumption that a "war" is the appropriate solution because the cause of drug related problems is just people's weaknesses and moral failings. The hard Right of course thinks that, and they have pounded this metaphor into society's head ever since the Reagan era. If the real motivation for a "war" really was a matter of public health, then alcohol would be banned immediately. But ... so much money is involved...
As commenters here, and Rat Park , and "Drug Warriors and Their Prey"  explain, such a simplistic notion about the causes is not correct, along with the assumptions about the government's true motivations. There are more complex reasons, based in psychology and sociology, that explain why people have drives to alter their consciousness and why government policy is not actually what it seems a lot of the time.
This metaphor of a "war" is deliberately misleading, but simplistic enough to be jammed into people's heads - it is the 20th century equivalent of "Reefer Madness". Thus it is no surprise the Right is so fond of this, even now... they are obsessed with trying to mold society into what they want, versus trying to actually understand and solve problems appropriately. Thus their stereotypical dismissal of 'science' and all that...
But as I heard recently, conservatives have always been on the wrong side of history. US society is now evolving and legal marijuana is never going to go away now - primarily because of the money involved (and that is another essay)
This is a good book that shows some of the motivation for a War on Drugs is not in the name of health, safety, security... but the exact opposite. The War on Drugs sorta failed in these aims, so now "terrorists" are the new excuse for a 'soft' police state.
"Drug Warriors and Their Prey" examines the process by which the WoSD started to corrode civil liberties and how those tactics paralleled those used in the rise of the Nazis. Co-opting the judiciary to ensure those with the appropriate mindset or judicial philosophy was a key tactic - thus judges were able to make rulings supporting the bad policies of the executive branch, and so it all snowballs. Terrorists are only a revamp of "drug lord"; it's as if the WoSD could only take the authoritarians so far, so they switched to a new bogeyman. Given the advances in legalizing marijuana, the WoSD seems to be ending, but when will the war on terror ever end? It's going to be generations, because every innocent person killed by drones in the Middle East will be remembered by their family for generations - and they will never stop hating the US government.
Everything this book discusses is going on now, under the guise of combating terrorism. It is like there is a general blueprint for creating an authoritarian state, and it doesn't require a grand conspiracy, only the repeated short sighted actions of corrupt people with the same flawed worldview. It's like an unconscious conspiracy.