This is totally blowing my mind. In the very near future, we might actually end the War on Drugs.
We’ve fought this so-called “War on Drugs” for almost fifty years. Ever since we realized that the cocaine in our Coca Cola might be a bit too intoxicating, the green in our weed a little too THC, we’ve watched our leaders criminalize and incarcerate anyone ingesting or digesting psychoactive drugs. In fact, there are more people in US jails for drug charges right now, than for any other offence.
Eckhart Tolle1 (a very smart man and great thinker) believes that any time we decide to fight something or declare a war on it, we’ve already lost. As you know, wars are never really won. They go on and on in the minds or the bodies of the people involved in them; they perpetuate a stigma about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, and marginalize the victims who never asked to be involved in the first place. They also have a mighty tall price tag. Not to mention, they hurt a lot of people they shouldn’t.
Case in Point
In 2001, an article was released stating that US defence had been spraying South American crops with Round Up to destroy illicit coca plants… They failed to ask the famers growing their own non threatening staples if that would be okay. The herbicides destroyed the coca, but it killed farmers’ staple crops like maize, as well as poisoning people’s drinking water. Locals suffered respiratory problems, were robbed of their staple income, and generally starved to death. Of course, the government denied the whole thing and downplayed the effects of Monsanto’s lovely chemical cocktail.
You just can’t win that kind of war, now can you?
Declaring a war on drugs (or terrorism or fundamentalism or anything, really) is the antithesis of victory. Yet it still has a terrible cost.
So, let’s discuss a few results of this epic war.
Lots of people in jail for starters. To give you an idea: in the ’80s, there were approximately 40 000 people jailed for drug crimes in the US. Currently we’re looking at over 500 000. A 1200% increase. And that’s just one country. The cost to maintain this enforcement is in the billions.
Currently our prohibitive stance on hard drugs means that people who choose to engage in them are pretty much written off. Think about it: if you have a prison sentence for possession of heroin, what are the chances you’ll get a job, affordable housing, or adequate income when you get out? Our government’s not too keen on second chances, really. Unless you’re a celebrity, in which case you’ll become more famous *cough* Charlie Sheen* cough*.
They’re Dropping Like Flies
In Mexico alone (2009), over 5800 people were shot, hacked to pieces, or dumped in mass graves as a result of the cartel wars. The stories are alarming. Women, kids, babies, the stray tourist. People who got in the middle of a violent bloodbath; then forced to hunker down and wait out the storm (either as drug mules or innocent bystanders). Now they’re dead. And people are shaking their heads in dismay.
One might ask how the drug wars of Mexico and the War on Drugs is related. Simply put, the fact that the US is spending billions trying to prevent drugs coming into the US creates a US demand that is worth its pound of flesh. If you eliminated the competition for various cartels to spread the drugs illicitly, they can be regulated and won’t perpetuate cartel runners with a thirst for blood and guns chopping your family to pieces.
Who would you rather have giving you your drugs? Nice man from the government? Or scary man with snake skin boots and a giant machete wearing a suit that cost more than your life?
Government man wins.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on all the innocent folks who have been killed by drug enforcement agencies. Accidentals that are just not added up in the big picture.
The government figures it busts about 1% of the world drug supply each year. On the same note, it only takes 1% of the total drug supply to satisfy the entire world’s demand. How is it even possible to justify a war like this when so many innocent people die, and barely a teaspoonful in the sugar mill of illicit drugs is actually confiscated.
Do the Crime, Pay the Time?
I know what you’re thinking. Drug dealers and scabby users deserve to rot in jail. They made the choice to use/sell, so now they should suffer indefinitely.
Well, I disagree. We know that drug use is an addictions issue —a social issue, not a deviance issue. Selling drugs is capitalizing on this issue. Eliminate the issue (aka legalize and regulate drugs), eliminate the profiteering (aka seedy drug dealers selling 14 yr-olds hits of meth).
Think About It
Suspend your judgement.
Imagine you’re a young mother, a visible minority, you live in a poor neighbourhood, and have watched your own parents go to jail for dealing or possession as you grew up. Now you’re caught with a dime bag (weed, coke, whatever).
“Consider a woman who has been recently released from prison. In most states she is ineligible for welfare. She is not eligible for subsidized housing, and for Section 8 she has to wait two years before she can apply. In addition to finding housing, she also has to find employment, but most likely she ca not find a job because she has a record so no one wants to hire her. Essentially, a woman who has been recently released from prison comes into a society that is not prepared structurally or emotionally to welcome her back.” —Journalist Reihan Salam
Right now, If we eliminate the ‘crime’ associated with drug use and selling and instead approach it as a social issue that requires therapy, help, and support, this same woman would have a plausible chance of cutting the strings of her old patterns. She could start a new life and pass on educated health information about substance abuse to her kids and theirs. It’s working in places like Portugal and the Netherlands…
Does Legalization Work?
It’s interesting to note that in countries where hard drugs are legalized or regulated, there is a notable decrease in crime, gang activity, and a police force that is freed up to deal with other more serious crimes than possession.
Like human trafficking. This seems like a bigger kettle of fish to me.
Interestingly enough, almost the same number of people that are in jail for drug use (500 000) have signed a petition through Avaaz asking our world leaders for a paradigm shift on drug enforcement. In fact, 3 out of 4 Americans agree that the current drug enforcement policy is not working.
So why is it taking so long to shift attitudes?
The challenge is that current policy makers are balking at the recoil of negative public opinion that if we legalize them, drugs will become rampant and their own strapping sons will be swept up by the lure of white powder or crystal rock. How long till we realize doing something the same way over and over again can’t make it right?
It took us thirteen years (1920-1933) to realize that banning alcohol was a complete failure. We’re slowly phasing out cigarette smoking by making it more difficult to do in public, which I think is a smarter alternative to outright banning it. As an aside, I think cigarette companies should pony up the change for anti smoking treatments if they’re so keen on producing a life ending product. It’s like cleaning up your own oil spill, folks.
Just make it right.
Anyway, the utility of a glossy poppy, stinky weed, or wide leafed coca plant has affected our society in a way we never imagined. Without batting an eyelash we’ve created medical breakthroughs, plant profiteering, and mind altering drugs. In the same instant, we’ve created a social dependency on something we don’t fully understand.
Don’t put a shiny, dangerous toy on the floor and then tell a child she can’t play with it. Put a price tag on the toy, and tell her about the risks of negative consumerism; then see if she still wants to flirt with disaster.
She might, but at least she’ll understand the real cost and can make a fully informed decision without whoring herself out to support her bad toy habit2. Then put the toy on a shelf and make her save up for it for twenty years.
Or something like that.
1Eckhart Tolle on war: “War is a mind-set, and all action that comes out of such a mind-set will either strengthen the enemy, the perceived evil, or, if the war is won, will create a new enemy, a new evil equal to and often worse than the one that was defeated. There is a deep interrelatedness between your state of consciousness and external reality. When you are in the grip of a mind-set such as “war,” your perceptions become extremely selective as well as distorted. In other words, you will see only what you want to see and then misinterpret it. You can imagine what kind of action comes out of such a delusional system. Or instead of imagining it, watch the news on TV tonight.”
2Unless she’s two. Two-year-olds are idiots.
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