I have an entirely different viewpoint about this. First of all, I don't punish my children. So right there we are going to be approaching this differently. I can't think of a single person I knew in highschool whose drug/alcohol related behavior changed by being grounded. They just got better at lying.
As far how to do something that is illegal responsibly? I don't live my life based on what is legal or not. I do what I think is right for me and my family, and I want my children to learn to use their best judgement based on what is happening for them at any given time, not on whatever the ever changing screwed up idiots in charge happen to say is okay. So yes, drinking/doing drugs responsibily will be a huge discussion in our house in the upcoming years. I think there is a big distinction between smoking a joint at a friend's house and smoking crack. I think there is a big difference between having a beer when at home watching a movie and drunk driving. There is a big difference between taking mushrooms when out camping with friends and taking them at a concert in a big city. There's a big difference between buying a bag of weed on the streetcorner and buying from a friend you know well who grows it himself.
I don't subscribe to the Just Say No campaign to end drug use, and I don't subscribe to abstinence as a way to prevent teen pregnancy. I think both are completely useless at best, and probably do more harm than good since they mainly serve to put a wall up between teenagers and the adults that could be guiding them. The vast majority of teenagers, no matter how they are raised or how "good" they are, are going to try drugs/alcohol/sex at some point. I much prefer that I be of use in guiding in them in making smart, responsible choices when they do, rather than having them lie to me because they are afraid of being punished. They are in far less danger when they call me to pick them up drunk or high from a party than if they get into a drunk/high friend's car to get home.
My primary job as their parent is to keep them safe. And I can only do that if we have a completely open and non punitive dialogue about anything that is going on in their life.
In the book Siddartha, there is a chapter on The Son -- when Siddartha has to accept the path that his son has chosen. It is so very difficult sometimes when we parents think we know what is best for our kids and witness them making choices that scare us for them.
Alaskan Teach: I do not believe your statement that the felon kids of whom you speak came from families that were not punitive. It is just a blanket statement that is not based on truth. People do what people do.
Punishment really makes relationships with people very negative. I do not punish -- and all of my dss' friends who get punished have some very clever ways of getting around their parents. I call them the Eddie Haskels'. Their parents have an illusion of control. Punishing has taught them to be very good at hiding "evidence". It also creates so much resentment.
A good book that questions this idea of punishing is Alfie Kohn's book "Punished by Rewards".