Posted by: martinworster | October 20, 2010

104. THE DRUGS WAR DON’T WORK

 

Less than one hundred miles south of where I live, Mexico is slipping into a dark state of lawlessness. Particularly in the border towns as the drug cartels fight for control of the lucrative smuggling routes into the United States. As avid consumer of everything, the US is the biggest market for drugs in the world. 

 

We used to go to northern Baja quite a bit, although always avoiding the butt hole of Tijuana as we headed further south to Ensenada and Rosarito. I haven’t been back in nearly three years as a state of semi civil war is unfolding in Mexico. Mass executions, torture, machine gun battles on the streets with the police where tens of people die, rocket launchers and grenades used by the cartels, headless torsos hanging from freeways, heads left on roads…definitely not a place to take the kids. No wonder Bush II wanted to build a concrete wall along the entire border.

 

There was always a sense of lawlessness in northern Baja – on trips you’d be extra vigilant. The police were corrupt so you’d do your best not to get caught if you were doing anything wrong. Security guards in shopping plazas carried machine guards. There was always an edge – which I quite enjoyed. An undercurrent of danger. Now it looks like danger is current. Tourism into northern Baja from California was a constant flow and it’s really dropped off in the last few years.

 

So Mexico is one of the main routes into the US for drugs, particularly cocaine as it comes up overland and sea from Bolivia and Columbia. The war on drugs continues. Yet, since time immemorial humans have always sought means of intoxication. Through the studies of different cultures and communities, anthropologists have come to the conclusion that drug taking exists in all societies. Neigh – drug taking and intoxication is almost an implicit condition and requirement of human nature. No matter how hard you try you will never stop humans consuming drugs of all forms. Just as prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s never worked, the current war on drugs is totally failing.

 

Why not make all drugs legal? Control the means of supply. Cut out the middle man – the drug cartels. Profits from drug trafficking fund other criminal activities – prostitution, meth factories, human trafficking etc. Just as Prohibition funded extra curricular activities for organised crime in the 1920s. Extra revenue could be raised from tax revenues on drugs – quite important in this current economic climate of cuts, closures and job losses. Like the expanding green economy, surely many jobs could be created in the new drug economy? Experiences of other countries with relaxed drug laws (Holland, Portugal) show that far from increasing the number of users, once legalised drug use normally levels off. Frequently the illicit allure of drugs to some people is the very fact that it is illegal. Not to mention the great swathes of society – doctors, politicians, lawyers etc – who are considered upstanding citizens yet are made into criminals through their pursuits. Everyone is at it.

 

I don’t see any arguments as to how the present approach works? Where does the moral baggage come from that we can’t look at this massive problem pragmatically and with a clear head? The only solution is decriminalisation. I am pleased to see that a November 2 ballot in California on marijuana legalisation could mean the State being the first in the US to decriminalize the drug. I only hope they don’t stop there and that all drugs are made legal.

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