Opinions

The war on drugs

Legalising marijuana in California and Mexico is the best solution

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It is no secret that America devotes an exorbitant amount of money on its war against drugs. With 2010 three-quarters over, $35 billion has been spent to stop the spread of marijuana, cocaine and other narcotics. Since Felipe Calderón became president of Mexico, a similar drug war has been raging there, but the situation is quite different.

Mexico supplies most of the drugs that end up on American streets. In turn, America's organized crime sends guns and money south. Gangs on both sides of the border have an interest in keeping the relationship fruitful and the elaborate system of illicit trade they have set up has proven too rooted for either governments to make much impact against them.

This is not for a lack of trying. Ciudad Juárez, located close to the Texas border, is perhaps the bloodiest city in the world at present. Corruption is so widespread in Mexico that there are reports of guards letting prisoners out so they can go on killing missions for their respective gangs. The drug culture permeates some of these communities to such an extent that inhabitants have drug songs-- called narcocorridos-- that are sung to pay tribute (and provide warning) to the pros and cons of drugs.

Recently the Mexican drug war has been showing signs of the violence abating. While Calderón has been merciless in his crackdown on corruption, firing police officers by the tens of thousands and refusing to back down despite frequent deaths of politicians, the largest reason for this potential change is California.

California is in a tough spot. The state's debt has become so bad that government employees were being issued IOUs for a while. Part of the problem is the prison system which, like other states with three strikes laws, locks up people at an incredible rate for long periods of time. The cost of this habit led governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to consider sending prisoners to Mexico. (The plan has since been deemed unconstitutional, although rumours that the plan still persists exist.) To cover all this debt it looks more likely that California will be the first state to legalize and tax marijuana.

This is bad news if you're a drug lord in Mexico. If Californians are allowed to start growing and selling their own pot, a large market for Mexican cannabis will be made null. If California succeeds in implementing this system other states are likely to follow, so the drug war may be beaten by stopping the impetus the drug dealers have to kill each other.

Prominent politicians in Mexico are arguing for a similar thing. Vicente Fox, the former president, is arguing that all drugs should be legalised. Of course, promoting legal cocaine is less likely to be embraced by the entire population, but the case for marijuana remains strong.

The American drug policy, including heavy jail terms for marijuana possession, is unwarranted. The money invested in fighting the organized crime groups that transport marijuana has been a complete failure. And the incarceration rate for youths caught with small amounts is abhorrent. Legalization, for marijuana at least, makes a convincing case.

The most obvious reason to legalize and tax marijuana is that it doesn't present a danger to society by doing so. Recreational pot use is in many ways safer than alcohol. The second reason is the economic solution it presents.

One can support the legalization of marijuana while condemning drug violence without contradiction. The fact that people kill over marijuana is because it is unregulated. With the increased supply of it becoming legal, the revenue available to drug gangs would be lost. Gangs, obviously, aren't going away. But drugs like cocaine and heroin lack the same market, mainly because most people know the negative effect they have on lives. One can recreationally use marijuana-- cocaine and heroin are less often used this way.

What of legalizing cocaine? Do the same arguments apply? They very well might. The difficulty is determining where the line should be drawn with different drugs. For all that, slippery slope arguments are unsuccessful. Legalizing marijuana is justified, and that's enough for California.

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My predictions when Prop 19 passes.

1. TOTAL CHAOS!

2. The drug cartels will move their gears and have several bases in California for cultivation, I mean LEGAL cultivation. They can smuggle the pot to the other states since no one checks the cars when you cross state borders.

3. People are going to be blinded by money and will smuggle their home-grown pot to the other states for their customers.

4. The properties in California will COLLAPSE. Apartment and condo rental owners will all sell their properties quickly after the Prop 19 passes. This is because there is potential that the apartments and condos will be used for greenhouses/ pot cultivation.

5. The business properties in CALIFORNIA will COLLAPSE. Business property owners will sell the properties quickly and move elsewhere. There is a high chance that their properties will be used for pot cultivation.

6. Businesses in CA will move to other states. Marijuana is still illegal under Federal Law. They might lose federal funding if doing business in CA.

7. Businesses in CA will move to other states once Prop 19 is passed. There is a high chance of liability of employees working under the influence and causing accidents.

8. Mass exodus. People who abhor the smell of marijuana in their backyards will sell their properties before prices collapse and move to the other states.

9. Homeless drug addicts. This is a chance for the other states to get buses, load their homeless drug addicts in them and transport them to CA on a one-way ticket.

10. People stealing each others marijuana. More Total Chaos!

Prisons have been filled to capacity. Violent criminals, murderers, rapists and child molesters are released early to create space for these so called drug offenders. Half of court trial time and also a huge chunk of police officers time is pointlessly wasted. Enormous untaxed profits from illegal drugs fund multi-national criminal empires which bribe law enforcement authorities and spread corruption faster than a raging bush fire. These laws take violent criminals and turn them into multi-billionaires whilst corrupting even entire countries such as Columbia, Panama, Mexico and Afghanistan. The extreme violence on and south of the border is drug gangs fighting for turf in this lucrative business. The drug laws are also funding the Taliban whose illegal opium profits allow it to buy weapons and pay it\'s fighters more than $300 a month, compared with the $14 paid to an Afghan policemen.

The definition of insanity is great folly, madness, extreme senselessness, lunacy. The present drug laws cause all of the above and may therefor be deemed insane.

There will be many of you who probably fear a theoretical free-for-all, but that overlooks one major point: That\'s exactly the situation we have at the moment. Sure, there are laws against the possession and sale of these drugs, but they have no impact on actually restricting either one. When we allow such drugs to remain in the criminal market, they finance the activities of street punks, violent gangs, drug lords and terrorists. That\'s why there is now such an urgent need to legalize, which will not only allow us to properly regulate these substances, but also strip the illegal cartels of their main income.

So please consider the following very carefully : It wasn\'t the alcohol that caused the surge in crime and homicide during alcohol prohibition, it was prohibition itself. That\'s why many of us find it hard to believe that the same thing is not happening now. We clearly have a prohibition fueled violent crime problem. A huge number of these violent crimes are perpetrated by criminal syndicates and gangs who use the proceeds form the sales of illegal substances to further even more of their criminal activities.

Prohibition is nothing less than a grotesque dystopian nightmare. We have to regulate and we have to do it now!

Vote Yes on Prop 19!

I applaud your editorial. Living in Peru I\'ve seen the US funded drug war simply spread growing of coca and its concommitant swiping down of swathes of biodiverse jungle foliage just spread further and further into new areas.
The US penchant for using various fungi to wipe it out only push the narco businessmen to find better ways of upping the yields and choosing more dense foliage in which to hide the crops, both coca and opium.
The only way is to legalize with proper restrictions. It\'s insane to continue this \"war.\" In Peru it is legal to use small amounts. You\'re a criminal only if you sell it or are caught with more than that for your personal use. In other words using drugs here is LEGAL! There\'s no other interpretation.

The only thing the drug war does here is provide more US taxpayer dollars for Peruvian police salaries, solid jobs for DEA (Justice Dept.), INM (State Dept.) and the other drug \"warriors\" who live here permanently as contractors.

Again congrats on a measured, sane editorial.

Like it or not, there has never been, and nor will there ever be, a drug-free society; the use of addictive or recreational drugs is a natural part of human existence. Nobody here is claiming that any substance is beneficial for either the individual or society. It is true however that certain substances help the soul heal and relieve pain while others provide short-term relief from a monotonous existence at the risk of possible long-term health problems.

An important aspect of Individual freedom is the right to do with yourself as you please as long as your actions cause no unnecessary suffering or direct harm to others. Many among us may disagree with this, and they should be free to believe what they wish, but the moment they are willing to use force to impose their will on the rest of us, is the exact same moment that the petty criminals/dealers, the Mafia, drug barons, terrorists and corrupt government officials/agencies enter the equation. The problems created by self harm then rapidly pale into insignificance as society spirals downwards into a dark abyss, while the most shady characters and \'black-market corporate entities\' exponentially enrich themselves in a feeding frenzy likened to that of piranhas on bath-tub meth.

Prohibition isn\'t like a disease where we\'re still waiting for the cure to be discovered - we know the cure for this. This isn\'t like putting a man on the moon or inventing the Internet - it doesn\'t take some stroke of genius or feat of technology. We have everything we need, right now, to end this moronothon. Rarely in the history of mankind have we encountered a problem of such magnitude and consequence that is so eminently solvable.

The Founding Fathers were not social conservatives who believed that citizens should be subordinate to any particular narrow religious moral order. That is what the whole concept of unalienable individual rights means, and sumptuary laws, especially in the form of prohibition, were something they continually warned about.

Imagine, that by some impossible means, prohibition succeeded in eradicating more than 90% of all the cocaine in the world, bringing production down to a mere one ton a week. Now imagine what that one single ton would be worth and what people would be willing to do to get it to market.

\"Posted: 2010-09-10 04:03:25
#1 - My predictions when Prop 19 passes.\"

In which alternate universe do you live where the threat of a $100 fine keeps even a marginal number of people from consuming cannabis?

In which alternate universe do criminal syndicates promote the repeal of the laws which create the very lucrative black market which enables them to make so much money?

People that have no clue about reality shouldn\'t post their predictions of the future as it they are nothing but laughing stock to those with IQ\'s above room temperature. Only in fantasy land could predictions as posted in the first post of this comments section be taken seriously. If anyone believes the nonsense predicted in post #1 it is a prime example of sheer idiocy and an indication that the predictor needs a remedial course in the relationship between cause and effect.

@#5

The marginal number of people is exactly the correct number to keep from consuming cannabis. Affecting a larger or smaller number would imply that resources are being wasted through inefficiency or inadequacy of policy enforcement.

I doubt that the marginal number occurs at the $100 price point, but $100 is certainly within the correct order of magnitude.