I'm more aware than most of the effect drug fuelled acquisitive crime has on others Paul, both directly and indirectly, as you surmise
However, if they were not illegal, then there would be no pushers because there would be no money to be made. Ergo, there would be no requirement to fund the artificially high costs imposed by the pushers.
Illicit drug use accounts for the lion's share of all admissions to hospital for "blood based" diseases such as Hepatitis B etc. Legally supplied drugs would be of controlled quality and the circumstances of their use would be made safer.
Amplifying on the other main point. A speeding motorist has the ability to make a decision on each occasion, a junkie does not. They have a physiological and psychological need to take drugs each day just to function. Their use of drugs,I would say, is a requirement, not a choice.
As you might expect, the newspaper article was merely a brief pen picture of the idea and does not go into any detail regarding the nuts and bolts as it were.
I was lucky enough to be part of a working party some years ago, examining the feasibility of such a course of action and we made some detailed recommendations to the government of the day. Unfortunately, Governments do not like taking decisions which might have a negative effect upon their potential for re-election
The working party was well stocked with intellects far superior to mine including members of the Judiciary from High Court Judges down and equivalent from NHS, Police, academia, drug manufacturers et. al.
One of our conclusions was that the initial popularity of experimentation with drugs, ie. the culture, would be reduced by making drug use a humdrum, mundane activity, without the glamour associated with the illicit.
It would not be a perfect solution, in my view, but then again, what is? However, the situation as it stands at the moment doesn't work.
As a personal viewpoint, demonising people for something outwith their control doesn't make sense and is morally wrong.
As an aside, you might be surprised at the cost of class A drugs, Cocaine and Heroin, when supplied through legal channels. From what I can remember, a single dose would cost pennies.