Opinion

The Great Debate

Drug wars and the balloon effect

By Bernd Debusmann
March 26, 2009

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate
– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Why have billions of dollars and thousands of anti-narcotics agents around the world failed to throttle the global traffic in cocaine, heroin and marijuana? Blame wrong-headed policies, largely driven by the United States, and what experts call the balloon effect.

Squeezing a balloon in one place makes it expand in another. Destroy drug crops in one region and cultivation moves to another. Cut a supply route in one place and another one springs up. Take the example of Colombia and Mexico, at present a focus of U.S. attention because of large-scale violence that threatens to spill across the border.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, almost all the cocaine consumed in the United States was grown in Colombia and shipped to South Florida along a variety of sea and air routes. Colombian traffickers fighting for market share turned Miami into a city where shootouts, contract killings and kidnappings became part of daily life.

That began to change when enraged citizens appealed to the federal government for help to crack down on the “cocaine cowboys.” Then President Ronald Reagan established a special force to cut the cocaine pipelines and end the violence. “The Mexicans must rue the day the South Florida Task Force was set up,” said Peter Reuter, a scholar at the University of Maryland. “That was the beginning of the problems it faces today.”

Within weeks of its formation in 1982, the task force scored several spectacular successes. A string of seizures of large quantities of cocaine and marijuana prompted Colombian trafficking organisations to shift their smuggling routes to Mexico, where they partnered with criminal networks.

By 1988, the balloon effect had become obvious: The Mexican Defence Ministry reported it had discovered 4.8 tonnes of cocaine in a cave in Chihuahua near the U.S. border. It was then the world’s biggest seizure of the drug. Its Colombian origin was not in doubt — Mexico produced no cocaine of its own.

Now, two decades later, the U.S. State Department estimates that as much as 90 percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States comes through Mexico, which is also a major source of heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana. The State Department’s estimates speak volumes about the failure of policies that emphasised crop eradication, interdiction and punishment for drug users.

FARTHER AWAY THAN EVER

As a Latin American commission led by three former presidents (of Colombia, Mexico, and Brazil) put it recently: “Prohibitionist policies based on the eradication of production and on the disruption of drug flows as well as on the criminalization of consumption have not yielded the expected results. We are farther away than ever from the announced goal of eradicating drugs.”

If it were possible to seal the border, there would be no reason for Mexico’s drug mafias to wage war against each other. They are fighting for access to the main gateways into the U.S. In one border city alone, Ciudad Juarez, more than 1,000 people have been killed in the first two months of the year.

There has been growing criticism of the war on drugs, and not only from advocates of legalization who argue that drugs should be sold and regulated in the same way as alcohol and tobacco is now regulated.

On a visit to Mexico this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade.” Though it was a statement of the obvious — the drug trade is driven by the laws of supply and demand — officials of previous administrations have not been nearly as blunt.

Discussing the drug problem as a presidential candidate, Barack Obama he said he believed in “shifting the paradigm, shifting the model so that we can focus more on a public health approach.”

The public health approach, know as “harm reduction” in a global dispute over drug strategies, means treating drug addicts not as criminals who participate in an illegal market but as patients who deserve care in the public health system. Most of Europe favors harm reduction over filling the prisons with drug abusers, the standard procedure in the United States.

On any give day, about half a million people are behind bars in the United States for drug offences. Obama’s choice of drug czar, Seattle police chief Gil Kerlikowski, signals a new direction, at least in the drug war at home. Seattle has been on the forefront of drug reform developments, including a needle exchange program for addicts. And for Seattle police, marijuana arrests have been the lowest law enforcement priority.

The drug czar heads the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, a 130-member group which sets anti-drug policy. “The success of our efforts to reduce the flow of drugs is largely dependent on our ability to reduce demand for them,” Kerlikowske said after his nomination.

Reducing demand for illicit drugs in the United States, the world’s largest market, is an ambitious goal. Earlier attempts have failed, including Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign. A program still active called DARE — Drug Abuse Resistance Education — aimed at high school students is drawing mixed reviews.

But optimists point to the success of campaigns to discourage smoking by making it socially unacceptable. It took a long time. But it worked.

Comments
140 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

As long as I know dealers do not card anyone actually, dont see much more risk than nowadays with legalization.

Agreing with no simple solution though, but once you realize your policy totaly failed, you may want to try something else…

Posted by Wiz | Report as abusive
 

The war on poverty has failed. The war on drugs has failed. The war on terror has failed. This commentary has over 100 hits, more than all the other at currently at the Great Debate. The internet questions posed to the President were equally as voluminous. Obama played it down and refuses to even acknowledge a change in course might be needed.

Henry Ford figured out how to make fiberglass bodies from Hemp in the 1930s. They were stronger than steel and the resources renewable. Steel and mining interests lobbied congress for a hemp irradication act and got it. Through the late 30s we destroyed all wild hemp and have prohibited its cultivation ever since.

Marijauna is also refined as mood enhancer for those with affected disorders as well as glaucoma and nausea for chemo therapy patients. All good reasons to legalize marijauna cultivation. However, black market business’ provides untraceable earnings. Black money can be spent on wars and coups with little or no ability to identify the financiers. ( Read ” Blowback” by Chalmers Johnson)

Posted by Anubis | Report as abusive
 

I find it interesting that Jon thinks somehow drugs sprang up after the Nam. Marijuana goes back to our Founding Fathers who grew hemp. They also grew marijuana which is hemp grown in less density and where the males are removed prior to pollination.

“(Washington’s)…August 7, 1765 diary entry, “began to separate the male from the female () plants,” describes a harvesting technique favored to enhance the potency of smoking cannabis…”

“Dr. Burke, president of the American Historical Reference Society and a consultant for the Smithsonian Institute, counted seven early presidents as cannabis smokers: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor and Franklin Pierce. 41 “Early letters from our founding fathers refer to the pleasures of hemp smoking,” said Burke. Pierce, Taylor and Jackson, all military men, smoked it with their troops. Cannabis was twice as popular among American soldiers in the Mexican War as in Vietnam: Pierce wrote to his family that it was “about the only good thing” about that war.”

Opium was also available in a variety of forms.

Granted the rebellious nature of the sixties aided in these pursuits drifting into Whit Anglo-Saxon neighborhoods and into mainstream America. What mainstream America discovered is that the propaganda the government had been selling the people for so long was flat out wrong. They were lying to us or have you forgotten Refer Madness and it kills brain cells? The government continued where William Hurst left off and promoted so many lies in order to demonize marijuana that when the truth hit in the 60’s the government lost all credibility with the majority of that generation. Jon, being of the minority, now believes that the US was safe before drugs and now it is not and is having trouble seeing that the reason was the laws that were once used to control blacks, Mexicans and the Chinese were now fueling a burgeoning black market since good white folks were now using these recreational drugs. And if you think these laws were created for some other reason than to control groups of people please be my guest and look up the congressional and state proceedings. If the wording of those proceedings were used today the politican who uttered them would be thrown out of politics his career ruined.

Today we reap what the idiots sowed so long ago and for reasons we have forgotten.

Hurst wanted hemp outlawed because a hemp gin was created that would make the price of hemp lower than cotton and would put him out of business. He started a campaign with his news paper to demonize Marijuana. And in congressional testimony “The specific reason given for the outlawing of the hemp plant was its supposed violent “effect on the degenerate races.” (Testimony of Bureau of Narcotics Commissioner Harry J. Anslinger, in testimony before Congress in hearings on the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937).

Opium was outlawed to save the white women from getting tricked into going into opium dens where they would get high and let the Chinese degenerates rape them

At the beginning of the 1900s Cocaine was considered the “safe” drug. It was even used in Coca Cola. Not until its addictive quality was discovered and that it was in a variety of commercial products did it get removed. In 1914 it was outlawed for commercial use.

The Harrison Act and the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937 was the beginning of the Drug War. However, “even the people who wrote the Harrison Act and the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937 agreed that a general prohibition on what people could put into their own bodies was plainly an unconstitutional infringement on personal liberties. For comparison, see the history of the constitutional amendment which was required to prohibit alcohol. There is no fundamental reason why a constitutional amendment should be required to prohibit one chemical and not another.”

And somehow today people like Jon, Prohibitionists, think it is the drugs fault, this was the idea promoted in the sixties but in reality it was a bunch of greedy buffoons who were out to protect their pocket books and their misconceived fears of the “degenerate races.”

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive
 

The only effective policy with respect to drugs tried in the last century was President Nixon’s move to expand drug treatment for users and punish dealers more severely. Back when the drugs of choice were hemp (today’s highly “improved” cannabis source is 1000 times more potent, and has been found to cause brain damage in heavy users, unlike it’s ancestor plant) opium, and a mild form of cocaine, unlimited personal use might have been the answer, but with the advent of horribly destructive drugs like methamphetamine (produced mainly domestically), PCP, and other synthetics such a policy is socially destructive. Treat users and arrest the dealers.

Posted by drzarkov | Report as abusive
 

The thing about legalization is that recreational drugs can be controlled, taxed, and regulated. Most people who Want to use drugs are already using them. The money of course goes untaxed and helps finance more violence and corruption.
Who More than the cartels wants to keep drugs illegal here? Corrupeted law enforcement officials who would lose income(untaxed) if street drugs were legal? The gangs fighting for turf to sell drugs?
Lots of vested interests in that market.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive
 

Marijuana was outlawed through the use of lies and false scientific studies. Most of the “facts” published in the 30′s have been proven to be false.

The fact is that in a “free” country we have allowed many of our citizens to have their liberty and rights taken away based on lies and false information, all for the benefit of a few. This is unconstitutional and should not be tolerated.

Many people still believe these falsehoods even today. So why is it with all our advances in science and medicine that it is still illegal unless someone is profiting from the status quo?

Growers don’t want it legalized, neither do the sellers or drug cartels. So let’s keep ruining people’s lives by taking away their money and freedom so the few can continue to profit at their expense.

Our prisons are overcrowded. California is looking at releasing criminals early to address the overcrowding issue. Legalizing drugs would help address this issue.

I say legalize Marijuana to remove the criminal element and create much needed tax revenue at a time when it is most needed.

Posted by Vern | Report as abusive
 

The claim, made by dzarkov, that cannabis is now “1,000 times more potent” and “causes brain damage” is an example of uncritical acceptance of the “lies and false scientific studies” mentioned by Vern. I have raised this issue with British government ministers. I have figures for THC content of modern so-called “Skunk”, from the British Home Office, sent to me, in a letter from the British Home Secretary (Jacqui Smith) which show that the THC content of ‘Skunk’ is far lower than the published figures for THC content of hashish in the 70s (Robert M. Julien, ‘Primer of Drug Action’, 3rd ed, 1975). I also know this from personal experience. I smoked a lot of cannabis in Britain and Holland in the 60s and early 70s. Most of it was potent hashish, although my American friends tended to be more used to smoking ‘grass’. The LSD was also (probably) about ten times more potent in those days. Since that time I have studied neurobiology at degree level. I have searched the neurobiological literature, but I cannot find any credible evidence for the allegation that cannabis causes brain damage. All I can find are psychiatric (voodoo science) studies that make this claim on the basis of methodologically flawed ‘experiments’. “Skunk” is a marketing term, invented by dealers and growers. It is in these people’s interest to have us believe that their cannabis is stronger. It is also in the interests of prohibitionist governments, law enforcement agencies and private prison companies, because it seems to provide an excuse for persecuting cannabis users. It is also in the interest of organised dealers for cannabis to be illegal as it helps to keeps prices high. So the interests of the politicians, police-persons, criminal dealers etc are the same.

Posted by Bill Farnaby | Report as abusive
 

In a free society people should be able to decide how they choose to live. In many of the comments the approach is to deny choice. I believe drug addiction is a problem that could solve itself. Addiction is not an event, it\’s a process. By using force to intervene you just prolong the process. Certainly, my approach would be messy, however, if drugs would suddenly become legal, does that mean everyone would run out and start using drugs? Somehow I doubt it. The drug laws have done nothing but fill our prisons with people that don\’t belong there. If your a drug user, you will use whether it\’s legal or not. If you don\’t use, are you going to start just because it\’s legal. Alcohol is legal, but I choose not to drink.

 

Please read my blog “restructure america & tide over present economic & political crisis”. My observatin is that like oil, major part of dollar is going out of USA is drug. Ban on drug or stringent action will not help. Sir Isaac Newtons theory is that “every action is opposite reason”. So in a democracy there should be no ban for anything including drug. It will create corruption and poor victim should be innocent people. On the other hand, the drug cartels will easily escape with the support of law enforcing authority and other agencies and they can mobilise and make a coup on the govt.

I am advocating that peoples’ civil liberties should be protected. At the same time, no democracy should control by drug cartel, oil cartels, stock, arms, corporate, ‘media?’ and other cartels. I am advocating legalising drugs and ensure that it is taxed and consumer should get at a very reasonable price. Govt. get more revenue and ensure stop of emerging a power parallel system which is threat to all democracy. This is the 21st century, which we need to change the historic blunter of banning anything and everything. That becomes a crisis of all democracies.

On the other hand, it can stop USA to save billions and trillions of dollars every year going out of USA if govt. legalise, allow to produce locally in US, taxing on these products, stop abusing drug users and instead giving freedom to choose and allow them to use under medical prescription etc.

Other major benefit is that, USA want to get back its “Super Power Tag”, it has full control on world’s parallel economy. Through policy changes and innovative policies, it can retain its power and also applying and using innovative latest scientific technologies with new policies under “civil liberties” banner will make a major global impact. It will strengthen USA and its currency around the world and Dollar curtail erosion of valuation of dollar.

It is the time of review all the polices and programmes of USA and I think US Lobbies, corporates and govt. sit together and find out best solution and debate on this issue for the sake of future of America. I think present ‘incumbant’ Obama can make a change. ‘Yes, change we can’.

Posted by commonman | Report as abusive
 

The U.S. insisted on the first international anti-drug laws over 90 years ago under President Woodrow Wilson, which the Europeans thought misguided. How can you make personal habits illegal? Such laws are inherently unenforceable. That was one of 4 BIG MISTAKES made by him, which we are still paying for dearly. Since then, we learned alcohol prohibition doesn’t work. But still the solution isn’t obvious to everyone. It was almost criminal to even talk about legalization through the Reagan-Bush-Clinton years. Legalization remains a third-rail issue in American politics. Fortunately, the states are slowly fixing it. Only for marijuana, only for medical, and only 14 states. But California crime is down.

 

What this is really about is huge sums of money going to the wrong families. If people spend small amounts of money on marijuana, they won’t spend huge amounts in the MALLS. Why ? Because they’ll be busy relaxing at HOME !
Any guesses who puts pressure on law-makers to keep the status quo ?

Posted by Sanat | Report as abusive
 

Legaliziing drugs will not make them safe. Elvis died from legal drugs.
No government will make drugs available to young folk. So if you take the adult market from criminals, they will only have kids to sell to.
There are no easy answers, are there?
Our world is both financially bankrupt and morally bankrupt. There comes a time when a garment is beyond fixing with another patch.
Graham Mewburn
Australia

March 29th, 2009 10:37 pm GMT – Posted by Rick Carey

Graham,

You state that No Government would sale drugs to kids.

NO BUT THEY LIKE TO MAKE IT EASILY AVAILABLE for “ALL” kids WITH NO REGULATION ON THE BLACK MARKET WITH THEIR PROHIBITION.

You also state “if you take the adult market from criminals, they will only have kids to sell to.”

Thats not true …because the cartels who sale certain drugs illegally will be forced to obtain a license and registration from their governments thus will abide by the laws of restrictions placed on their product to maintain their business only now its legal for them to do so and they do not have to tote a gun to protect their interest in an open market! However they would see a tremendous drop in the prices of their product because in an open market there will be sane competition. You might still see a small group just selling to teens but YOU SEE THAT ALREADY…but with regulation that market would dwindle…I’d prefer a more regulated way to handle this problem.

Posted by Mary | Report as abusive
 

bilderberg group???

Posted by danny | Report as abusive
 

You cannot legislate morality. People are going to do drugs whether they are legal or not, and whether they are dangerous or not. The war on drugs (prohibition) is a failure and should be stopped. You cannot legislate morality.

Posted by McKockiner | Report as abusive
 

I’ve never been happier to read a comment board, seems like at least the people who visit Reuters actually get it.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive
 

Going on, imagine if this same column and comment board were taking place on Foxnews.com, all us rational folks would be attacked!

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive
 

Admittedly, marijuana is a joke. The worst effect of smoking pot is never accomplishing anything. But what would possibly be the use of “legal” cocaine? Heroine? Are you kidding me? These drugs are extremely harmful to the point of deadly.

Sure, smoking is bad but a pot smoker is not going to overdose on smoke for 25 to 50 years down the road. Although I hope pot smokers refrain from operating heavy machinery or driving vehicles while under the influence, for the most part, marijuanna is harmless. The right amount of heroine, taken the right way, can kill a user about as quick as cyanide.

I’m not a prude, but people that use these particular drugs, heroine and cocaine, commit real crimes against others, partiularly property crime in order to sustain a drug habit. Heroine addicts can’t care who they harm. Why would a heroine addict care? They spend too much time staring at their shoes. The only time they care is when they are withdrawing and, at that point, they only care about themselves.

Sure, alcohol is harmful and deadly, but how can we ever control that fire by adding more fuel to it? I really don’t see any compelling argument for legalizing cocaine or heroine.

Posted by chollie | Report as abusive
 

After prohibition failed for the same basic reasons they made alcohol and \”controlled\” substance that can be consumed and taxed legally. It would be far better to make the drugs available to adults and eliminate the corruption and mafias!
Will anyone have the courage to give it a try?

Posted by Tom Westheimer | Report as abusive
 

How about legalizing all kinds of drugs but controlling sales. Just like spirits, no sales to minors (below age 21). What’s more, imposing “drug user insurance” requirement. Only customers with paid drug-insurance could buy drugs. That insurance would pay for claims and health costs of drug abusers. This way the hard-working, honest and drug-avoiding taxpayers would not pay a dime to those, who use drugs.
How about alcohol-user insurance, and tobacco-user insurance?
I’m a healthy, non-smoking and non-drinking man. I eat healthy diet and participate in several sport disciplines.
Why am I paying the same Medicare and health insurance premium, as any other smoking, drinking and drug-abusing lazy sick fatso????
Letting the lazy, smokers, drinkers, drug-abusers, pay more in insurance would be the best incentive for them to change their lifestyle.

BTW, campaigns to discourage smoking by making it socially unacceptable did nothing. The cancer scare did all the work.

 

Michael Ham ,

You stated “Sure, alcohol is harmful and deadly, but how can we ever control that fire by adding more fuel to it? I really don’t see any compelling argument for legalizing cocaine or heroine.”

if there is any fuel added to the fire its already being added. Legal or not legal. With stronger drugs such as Cocaine, Meth, Heroin, etc… you make those available for free or at a low cost through health clinics thus you create a registry of those who are using these harsher drugs…and you also then have the ability to help and educate these if they so desire it, because they are no longer in the dark. This will eliminate the home making of these deadly drugs and the dangers that come with it. People are not going to pay a high price on the street for something they can get for a lower cost or free thats professionally made in a lab…Young people who are perhaps already addicted to these stronger drugs can then be helped but as it is right now with the criminal justice system handling these cases. Many of these kids could die before anyone knows they are using. Its time we look at this problem for what it really is a social health problem.

 

Since most of the Mexican killings along the border, are centered in both, Juarez, and Tiajuana, it seems rather obvious that many of the drugs being smuggled into our United States, pass through these areas.

The El Paso border area, across from Juarez, was recently reinforced with a considerable amount of fence, which undoubtedly put additional pressure on the cartels, making it much more difficult to smuggle drugs in this area, by limiting the number of remaining drug routes available.

El Paso Border Patrol Sector Apprehensions—Length 268 miles
———-OCT—NOV—DEC—JAN—FEB—MAR
FY2009–1468–1159—865–1340–1434
FY2008–3605–2648–2014–3470–3945
FY2007–6183–5098–4189–6570–7482
FY2006-11027–8191–5668-11941-14457

01-29-09 In the El Paso sector, crews finished 79 miles of the planned 81 miles of “vehicle fencing,” usually concrete or metal barriers that were mostly installed in the flat New Mexico desert west of El Paso, Cordero said. The 15- to 18-foot tall metal “pedestrian fencing” needs about 11 miles to reach the planned 56 miles in the El Paso region.

At least part of the answer to continued smuggling attempts has to be more fence.

Less than 400 miles of pedestrian fence have been built, in lieu of the legislated, and promised, 800 milles of double-layered fence.

Keep Building The Fence!! It Works!!

Posted by Buzzm1 | Report as abusive
 

Alcohol killed my father and a good friend from high school. Cigarettes killed my mother, my aunt and my uncle.

Nobody I know has been killed by drugs. Time to end the prohibition. Most of us will not use drugs. Those who do, much like alcoholics, need medical help.

John Berry, your call to cut off the fingers and toes of drug users, that is truly evil. Seek psychological help and pray to God for forgiveness for your vile and violent thoughts. God bless you.

Posted by Chazzzz | Report as abusive
 

buzz, they tried a wall in Germany and it didn’t work. Build a wall and the suppliers will find another way.

The business is just too profitable. Bitter laugh, the drug industry is probably the last profitable industry in our crashing banana republic.

You ever been to a pumpkin chunkin contest? Build a wall and they’ll just toss the drugs over the boarder with trebuchets.

Posted by Chazzzz | Report as abusive
 

Mary,

Legalizing these drugs won’t make them cheap if you tax them, which is what I’m advocating for. When I was in high school and even middle school I could’ve smoked weed everyday and done a line of cocaine if I wanted to, all for free cuz my classmates had it.

I’m 23 and if you older parents aren’t aware that’s the situation your kids are in. I didn’t go to an inner city school, just a normal size somewhat rural school.

Even though I don’t trust this government, I’d rather they control the prices than drug dealers and I’d rather have them determine the availability to minors.

Heroine is a terrible drug, none of us anti-drug war people are denying that. But it’s going to be available whether we waste money or not on drug war spending so we may as well save the money or at least spend it on putting these people in clinics where they can become healthy members of society rather than throwing them all in jail cells and waiting for them to get out and do the same thing all over again.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive
 

News reports show that an amazingly high proportion of teenagers say they could easily obtain drugs, even some of the most dangerous. But in general they don’t, because they’re not that stupid.

The only possible justification for prohibition is to prevent innocent non-users from taking up addictive drugs. A certain number do anyway, despite prohibition. The number probably wouldn’t rise much after legalization and might fall, since a large number of pushers now have an economic interest in enticing new users.

And the economic cost of free, no-questions treatment is trivial compared with the strategy of prosecution.

Posted by Rob Spooner | Report as abusive
 

As a recovering alcoholic (30 years straight) I would suggest all countries treat drug addiction as a health problem… when an addict ‘needs’ their fix .. they will get it… legalize it; tax it; put it in the medical professions hand so the addict can get counseling along with the drugs they need… take the profit out of the ‘trade’ and the ‘war on drugs’ will cease to exist… and we may go a long way towards eliminating our national debt.

Posted by lee L. | Report as abusive
 

I think Jefferson noted rather dramatically that the price of freedom is vigilance. I take that to mean that whatever we wan tto be free from will require us to be on-guard against it so long as it exist. As a society we have chosen to be free-from-drugs, whatever that means, whether we can afford to be isn’t just the price of vigialnce but the opportunity cost, or in this case the contingent liability represented by some form of legalized consumption of now illicit drugs. The best historical example I can point out is the Opium Wars between Britain and the Qing Dynasty in China (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_War if you want more detail.) For Britain read Drug Cartels and Qing Dynasty read USA…when you consider the consequences there’s a lot more at stake than the money to maintain vigilance.

Posted by Stanley | Report as abusive
 

Seems to be 3 Major Drug Cartels fighting it out in Mexico..The Columbian Cartel , the Mexican Cartel & the Mexican \”POLICE\” Cartel. All want total control…and the U.S.A. gives money to the Mexican Police Cartel…what are they thinking???

Posted by GGREENWOOD4 | Report as abusive
 

the dark days of prohibition must come to an absolute end. prohibition didn’t work in the early 20th century, it’s not working today, and it *never* will work in the future. the very notion of prohibition is draconian, oppressive and intrinsically flawed; the ridiculous polices that have resulted from it have only created more social problems by marginalizing & persecuting casual users, punishing & prosecuting addicts & abusers and has lead to increased poverty & crime rates across the board, plus increased health care costs due to disease transmission… on and on and on.

moreover, prohibition has undermined the formal economy – while the underground economy is flourishing, simply because our government(s) have essentially hand-delivered the illicit drug trade on a silver platter to organized crime bosses and the brutal & lawless drug cartels – simply *because* of our government’s senseless prohibitionist policies and its futile war on drugs… which, if you think about it, is really a war on everyday people, and it’s viciously cruel, brutal & uncivilized and ultimately, destructive to social order.

we must shift our focus from the insanely expensive policies of prohibition & punishment to a health-oriented, harm reduction approach to drug use. we need a system that provides treatment, counselling & support services for *addicts* who *abuse* drugs (most people who use recreational drugs, particularly marijuana, are NOT addicts & abusers, and most ‘casual drug users’ actually lead perfectly healthy & productive lives). if you think about it for a moment, *many* of us put ‘drugs’ into our body every day, in one form or another (caffeine, alcohol, nicotene, codeine, morphine, sedatives, relaxants, anxiolytics, anti-depressants, et al… an innumerable array of psychoactive substances). society at large uses drugs, just as we have for thousands of years, and will continue to do until the end of time… that’s just life. drug use, whether prescription or recreational, is simply another facet of the human experience. while many will never use drugs, and good for them btw, it just makes no sense whatsoever to demonize and punish those who do – of their own free will – choose to use psychoactive substances.

obviously, children must be protected from early exposure to drugs, of any kind really, prescription or recreation, and that’s were government regulation comes in. but despite what fear-mongering prohibitionists like to parrot, children are NOT being targetted by ‘drug pushers’. the illicit drug trade is a multi-billion dollar BUSINESS, and its customers are ADULTS with gobs of money, not kids on playgrounds and schoolyards. of course, those with an anti-drug agenda know full well that when the public is kept afraid (of drugs or whatever), they’ll believe anything. if we truly want to get a grip on substance abuse (and not just drugs, then legalization, regulation and taxation of ALL drugs is the way forward, and the only way to get ourselves out of this asinine drug-war debacle.

a medically-based, harm reduction model would cost a mere fraction of what is currently being spent (in the hundreds of billions each year) on *failed* policies of drug prohibition & eradication – and it would actually WORK to reduce drug dependancy and associated health problems. but perhaps even more important, our prisons wouldn’t be overflowing with people who don’t belong there (which is another huge burden on the tax payer and an injustice to society overall), and crime rates would drop dramatically if drugs were simply legalized, regulated and taxed… just like we’ve learned to do with other psychoactive substances (alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, and so on).

it should also be said… we can no longer allow OUR government to persecute & oppress its own people, to strip us of our inalienable rights and the sole dominion over our OWN lives, including whatever substances that we may (or may not) *choose* to put into our bodies, of our own free will.

just END the stupid war on drugs already
and look ahead to solutions that will actually *benefit* society

 

There are more people clogging up our hospitals and health systems as a direct result of alcohol and tobacco use (or misuse?)than illegal drugs, yet we haven’t recently banned the use of these legal drugs. There’s simply too much government revenue at stake.
With regard to illegal drugs, prohibition has never worked and never will.
As a society we need to change our approach. Decriminalization for personal use (or misuse), as opposed to legalization, may be the next way forward. Ask any junkie if they are happy being a junkie and I’m sure there will be a resounding NO! Drug misuse is a health issue and should be treated as such. If ‘registered drug users’ were given access (supervised) to the drugs they crave at low or no cost you would prevent a lot of the crime they do to get the money for their drugs. Also, the stigma attached with having such a health problem may help them build up the courage and determination to work on overcoming their habit.
Finally, if you take the money out of the equation it simply won’t be viable for the producers and dealers of illegal drugs to carry on.

Posted by M Chambers | Report as abusive
 

The only succesful DEA/CIA drug task force I ever heard of from a cartel member, was the one that taught them how to process crack cocaine, from the coke they imported into ghettos all over America during the Nicaragua ‘Crisis’. Vietnam was about heroin trade gains, not godless communism. Afghanistan as the worlds biggest heroin producer, has always been in conflict for this reason. Russia pulled out because it couldnt sustain a fighting force in the face of this. Obama goes into Afghanistan, US heroin use will triple. Why? Because the government supplies the drugs not the cartels. Get rid of the government, you get rid of the drugs problem.

Posted by GWB123 | Report as abusive
 

Michael,

I’m sorry, I got a little mixed up with who posted what…it was actually Chollie I was quoting, in my earlier post to you…

Yeah I agree with you…I however believe if they would legalize these illegal drugs…it would defeat the purpose to put high prices on it…because most who are addicted are probably broke… anyways..especially those ones that are addicted to the more harsher drugs…but of course America could dig their way out of this economic crisis by ending the costly war on drugs.

I do think there is a lot of potential income for american farmers and land owners if they could be allowed to grow and sale…marijuana, or hemp for the market …there would be plenty of opportunity for new greener businesses for sure…especially where hemp is concerned.

Posted by Mary | Report as abusive
 

It is obvious that society wants to be free from the pain and suffering, cost, and hypocrisy of prohibition. If not for the propaganda, misinformation and the fake moral outrage the prohibitionists sling, this nation would have been free of this burden when alcohol prohibition was repealed. Instead they found ways to circumvent the Constitution in order to spread their plight.

Posted by B.Free | Report as abusive
 

“Admittedly, marijuana is a joke. The worst effect of smoking pot is never accomplishing anything. But what would possibly be the use of “legal” cocaine? Heroine? Are you kidding me? These drugs are extremely harmful to the point of deadly.” – Posted by chollie
__________________________________

Do you know what Heroin is? It was trademarked by no one else but Bayer at about the same time as their another famous drug aspirin. From 1898 through to 1910, under the name Heroin, diacetylmorphine was marketed as a non-addictive morphine substitute and cough suppressant. If not for some idiots discovering it as the simple way to get high and often OD, it would still be available OTC just like aspirin. It is still in use in some countries, most notably England, as a prescription painkiller. And legitimate painkillers like Vicodin and Oxycodone also are opium derivatives just as Heroin is. Opioids have lots of uses beside pain management – it’s cough suppressant (ever thought that Robitussin – that common OTC drug – contains a small quantity of Codeine, another relative of Heroin). They’re the best sleeping aid I ever tried. When you have intestinal issues, they help when Imodium can’t. And many other uses I can’t describe accurately – I’m not a doctor, just an unfortunate regular user (prescribed Ocycodone for back pain management). I tried all of them – OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Tramadol, whatnot. And I only laugh hearing ads about Advil, Tylenol, Aleeve claiming them to be “every pain medicine”. The whole pack of Tylenol would not give as much relief as one 5mg Oxycodone pill, especially at night time when pain wouldn’t let you get asleep. And you don’t risk your liver like when you take Tylenol or other NSAIDs in large quantities.
The key is – use it, but don’t abuse it. Oh, and don’t drive under influence – it makes you too slow to react. That’s the only negative side effect I experienced in many years of use. Well, there’s always a choice – stay home or don’t take it until you’re done driving.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive
 

if all the congress or people who think they are in charge were having their sons killed and their daughters turned into prostitutes, i bet they would come up with a solution.good luck, X drug addict

 

Every time you buy a fifth of whiskey you buy a lethal dose of alcohol. I know because a friend of mine died before the paramedics could arrive after he was dared to chug a fifth of Jack D. I have seen US servicemen die from drinking to much water trying to cleans there system of pot. Everything is “potentially” dangerous. If we outlawed everything that was “potentially” dangerous everything would be outlawed. Cars kill more people every year than heroin and cocaine combined. Most ODs occur when a user gets hold of a batch that is more pure than the last. This is one of the problems with dealing with the black market. There are no standards! These arguments are based upon Prohibitionist propaganda. It is dangerous; it is evil: it will kill all our children…Bull! Folks, the most dangerous and most debilitating drug out there is alcohol and what makes heroin and cocaine so dangerous is the War on Drugs because the worst thing that will most likely happen to a user is the government will destroy their life and throw them in prison.

Posted by B. Free | Report as abusive
 

It astounds me on a daily basis that, during the days of alcohol prohibition, the link between that and crime was obvious, it was in the streets.

The very same happens with the drug war, but on a global level, buy creating illict substances you create a black market, increasing crime and funding criminal organizations, you are literally making a source of money for them. they love it and ts exactly what they need.

drug use in and of itself is older than written language, and some theorize that some drugs may have taken a role in the progress of mankind itself.
you may as well try to eriadicate the english language, it would be easier.

it is wise to remember than while drug use stretches back some 100,000 years, our idea of “drug war” only goes back about 50.
harm reduction is the only sane alternative, your opinion and morality make no difference whatsoever, and forcing them through violence is a crime against humanity itself.

Posted by jeremy | Report as abusive
 

The following article addresses many of the points raised above. This article and related articles can be found at http://groups.google.com/group/GordonDru gAbusePrevention/

The Harm Caused to Individuals and Society by the Use of Marijuana by Paula D. Gordon, Ph.D.
May 26, 2009 Copyright 2009 by Paula D. Gordon. All rights reserved.

The view that marijuana is harmless or even “relatively harmless” is a view that is widely shared. That a view is widely shared does not mean that it is a sound view or that it has any basis in knowledge or fact.

Of course, the fact that marijuana is a plant that is widely available in nature has nothing to do with the potential harm that it can do if it is smoked or ingested. To assume otherwise is to engage in vague or magical thinking. It is common knowledge that there are plants and substances of all kinds that are harmful if ingested. For instance, hemlock is deadly as are some mushrooms. Smoking anything has some harmful consequences.

However widely shared a view it may be, the view that marihuana is harmless or even “relatively harmless,” it is a view that reflects a lack of knowledge concerning the immediate and the short term and long term effects of marijuana. It is also a view that reflects a lack of knowledge of the less widely recognized effects of marijuana use of contact highs and flashbacks (spontaneous recurrence of a drug high without using the substance at the time of the recurrence.) Similarly, the view reflects a lack of awareness of the civil liberties implications of being subject to contact highs and other effects as a result of being in the proximity of those who are using marijuana. Certainly, a rational public policy needs to be based on such a knowledge base.

One way I try to determine what the knowledge base might be of a person who seems unaware of the harmful effects of marijuana is to pose these questions:

• Do you know of research that shows that the use of marijuana can negatively affect motivation, long and short term memory, concentration, judgment, reasoning, and common sense?

• Do you know of the research of Harris Isbell and others who found that there can be idiosyncratic psychotomimetic (psychosis-like) effects from the administration of delta 9 THC in human subjects? (Delta 9 THC is the active principle of marijuana.)

• Do you know of the research findings that marijuana smoke can be inhaled by bystanders who then can experience marijuana highs and idiosyncratic effects?

• Do you know of the research in humans and animals showing the deleterious changes in lung tissue as a result of exposure to marijuana smoke?

• Do you know that contact high and flashback effects can occur as a result of the use of marijuana and do you think that the occurrence of such effects can have any negative consequences?

• Do you see any deleterious impacts to the civil liberties of others, including children, the elderly, mentally impaired, and other sensitive individuals, when they are unwillingly or unwittingly subjected to marijuana smoke or contact highs?

For further references and discussion of the effects mentioned here, see the articles and reports at http://groups.google.com/group/GordonDru gAbusePrevention/ or contact me at pgordon@erols.com .

With regard to the policies that are needed when it comes to psychoactive, mind altering substances, I believe that there should be an increasing emphasis on effective diversion programs (including drug court programs) and early intervention with judicial backup but no record if successful re-education and treatment are completed. Such approaches need to go on hand in hand with a massive prevention-education effort aimed at helping dissuade users from using a substance that has such negative effects on the mental, psychological, and physical health of users and on the health and functioning of those in their proximity, as well as on the overall well being of society.

After the conclusions of the deliberations in Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin was asked later by a woman what kind of a government the new nation had. He is said to have replied: “A republic Madame, if we can keep it.” A new question: If we sanction or tacitly encourage the recreational and/or chronic use of psychoactive, mind-altering drugs, including marijuana, and if we do not actively discourage their use, can we still keep our republic? I think not, since keeping our republic depends on an educated and informed psychologically and mentally healthy and stable citizenry who value the common good and who are capable of bring sound reasoning, good judgment, the exercise of common sense, and understanding to bear on recognizing and addressing exceedingly complex and challenging problems and threats that are currently looming before us.

Answers to the six earlier questions can clearly reflect a very different set of values and assumptions concerning what kind of nation we want America to be, and what kind of nation and what kind of world we want to pass on to the future generations. The answers can also reveal very different knowledge bases concerning the effects of psychoactive, mind-altering drugs and very different perspectives on what constitutes mental and psychological health and what the value of mental and psychological health is. From my vantage point, playing Russian Roulette with anyone’s mental and psychological health is simply not a smart thing to do. Turning any part or all of the United States into an Amsterdam or letting it evolve into an Amsterdam would seriously undermine our capacity to realize the promise of America and, from my perspective, it would throw to the winds the great gifts that the Founding Fathers bequeathed to us and entrusted to our keeping, the same gifts that following generations have fought and are fighting to keep.

*******

 

A good overview of the situation with marijuana.

 

Logic and reason are concepts Americans have not warmed up to in over 50 years. Clearly common sense is not very common. As long as public policy is debated from the stand point of dogma and other preconceived notions, working solutions to mitigate the ills that drug use visits upon society will elude us.

Thomas Jefferson stated the sole legitimate function of government is to intercede where the the actions of one party or individual interferes with another party or parties exercise of their inalienable rights. Nothing more.

Posted by leonardospace | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •