This blog contains material I wrote and posted on multiply.com between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).
Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Thoughts on the "War On Drugs"
From March 2007
In response to this post by Malcolm - I'll repeat and enlarge on what I wrote there. [Note that when I use the word "drug" here it refers to substances of abuse, not the WHO definition of drug which includes medicines as well as other biologically active chemicals.]
First, the "war on drugs" is going to fail. It has never succeeded, and as in Afghanistan, the conditions obtaining means that the people "waging war on drugs" are actually promoting drug cultivation as a way of keeping the locals happy. This goes for the formerly anti-opium Talibanas much as it goes for the US.
In Myanmar, the very people the Americans support - the Kachin and Karen militia and warlords like Khun Sa - are mired deep in drug and jade smuggling and cultivation. Narco-smuggling is their way to riches, not to speak of funding terror campaigns.
Next: Something the West will never understand. For South American Native Americans, the coca leaf, and for Indians and other South Asians, marijuana and opium (the Chinese too as far as opium goes) play a cultural role. Any attempt to crush marijuana in India will only rouse resentment and perverse interest in it. India, where marijuana has always played a big role in Tantric Hinduism, used not to penalise marijuana earlier. Then it did not have any criminal gangs smuggling it. Now, at the behest of the Americans, it does penalise it; and promptly, very violent (mostly "Israeli", but also other) criminal gangs have created bases in the remote villages of Himachal Pradesh state where the world's most high grade (or so I'm told) marijuana, Malana Creme, is grown. In South America, coca is now a cultural symbol of defiance against gringo imperialism.
Third: All the "war on drugs" does is, mostly, put users (who are more victims than victimisers) and small time pushers in prison. There these people 1. Come in contact with truly violent and evil people. 2. Get criminalised and institutionalised (if they stay inside too long, they become psychologically dependent on prisons and deliberately commit crimes on release to get back inside). 3. Clog up the system - take up room in prisons. I seem to remember a child rapist being freed in Britain some time back because there was no room for him in prison. 4. Gather criminal records which make them often unemployable and leave them with little prospects but crime to keep body and soul together. The "war on drugs" does not, as a general rule, touch the big fish. Often the big fish are political allies and hence untouchable anyway (warlords in Afghanistan, right wing death squad leaders in Colombia, Turkish mafia).
Fourth: As in any other thing, much of drug abuse is a gesture, however cockeyed, of rebellion against society. Like the teenage smoker, the teenage drug abuser begins it because it's cool to do something forbidden. Unban drugs, and the allure goes. Simple psychology. The Netherlands no longer bans marijuana; I don't think every man, woman, and child there has begun smoking/growing/exporting pot, have they?
Fifth: The ban on drugs is the biggest factor driving up drug prices and making it a lucrative business. Lift the ban and prices are going to fall through the floor; as in every other line, a legitimate supply closes out the illegitimate. (For Indians - if you're of a certain age, you'll remember the craze for smuggled and often spurious Panasonic radio/tape players or Walkmans. Who'd buy any black market electronics in these days of legitimate supply?) The ban on drugs is the biggest ally drug mafia members have.
Sixth: The drug mafia are the most violent criminals worldwide. Right from secretive drug cartels to the teenage street gang members, they protect their turf by murder and mutilation. Legalise drugs and drug related violence stops at once. Immediately and totally. There just won't be a percentage in it any more.
Also: When prostitution and pornography were legalised in Europe in the sixties, did sex crime and "moral degeneration" rise skyscraper high? Quite the reverse. Free access to sex meant it was no big deal, hence not attractive, any more. Connect the dots for yourself.
Listen: the drug addict is going to get his drug anyway. You can make it difficult and expensive for him, so that he snatches purses or knives old ladies for their savings to feed his need; and you can keep your police busy chasing him, your prisons busy incarcerating him, and your customs busy trying, futilely, to block his supply. Or you can just legalise it and turn your energies to more profitable channels.
Besides, alcohol and tobacco are probably at least as dangerous as narcotic drugs. Why not ban them while one is about it as far as the "war on drugs" is concerned?
All drug seizures are just tokens. Let's be clear on this. It's not even the tip of the iceberg. It's a tiny chip the size of an ice cube from your refrigerator.
Not that I expect the "war on drugs" to be called off just because of what I said.