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.

140 comments

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Seems like ONE BIG KEY ISSUE NONE ADDRESS? What about the MONEY, have read that more funds go through drugs then auto industries.. Billions of Billions of CASH in small bills somehow have to get to Cartels. Only so much can go via some briefcase etc. The Nations with Cartels are ALL supported by various USA and other NATIONS BANKS which as “bail out” proves are all linked up..
. THE BANKS, as no one can carry this huge amount of cash about, have to then transfer huge sums of what could be easily proven as “Cartel Money’ and no doubt make big profits doing such. NO ONE, ON PLAN, NO CONCEPT and NEVER DISCUSSED is anything about “THE MONEY”. Kind of like the howls of “Rapid increases in high cost of health care”. no one discus’s whom is making big profits or WHY costs double inflation each year?
Me thinks if one followed RULE 1.0 of corruption and greed and crime. Yep all those Gov snoopers just cannot find a way to track the billions and billions, which I doubt is mentioned in Balance of Trade AKA USA Dollar S leaving USA which must be huge amounts. Fortune Mag even listed one of Drug Guys in millionaire lists, so that kind of verifies “Dollar drain is huge”. Also verifies why banks not being investigated.. ranks right up there with us tossing money at Iraq while NCY banks/DC killed stories on how much Iraq money they have, last reported at $79 Billion 6 months back..
FOLLOW THE MONEY TRAIL” the “Drug War” just might be pointed at, shall we say “The Drug Cartel and their ‘investments” and how that whole systems work.
For one more profitable for pols and gov contractors etc, to keep up endless “wage war on drugs”. It would seem, like AIG etc. Drug Cartel money is “to big to fail (to be investigated)?” Drug war Rule 2.0 Banks and such have NO morals or morality, but lots of lobbyists.
Billions of BILLIONS and the bank and offshore units NOT involved? That is of course a truth, like the one about “world is flat”? Yep, billions and billions just floating about in brief case and luggage as we know the money guys are to honest to get involved with such things?

Posted by Chuck | Report as abusive

I see the effects of drug use on friends, acquaintances and family as their use of illegal drugs ruins their lives and impacts the lives of those around them. It would be nice to stop the sale of illegal drugs but as you said the demand fuels the supply.
The root of the problem is the war on drugs only addresses the supply and tries to make people choose not to use. Somehow we need to address without taking away the right to choose: a great leader was once ask “how do you govern your people in such a way that they behave so well”. His response was; “I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves”.
The only way we can win this fight against lives becoming ruined by drugs is not by restricting use or supply but by once again teaching correct principles in our society and for the American people to once again follow correct principles.

Posted by Marv | Report as abusive

Chuck I think you’re mistaken, why care about the money? We should be caring about getting people off the drugs, there’s more than one version of currency big cartel druglords have available and more than just US banks they can flow the money trail through.

The US should be like Amsterdam, everything should be legal and people who have a mental weakness for drugs should be treated as everyone who has a mental weakness, with treatment and help.

More than half of non-violent drug users turn violent after being imprisoned, we live in a country where you can get life in prison for 3 non-violent drug offenses. Rapists, child abusers and sometimes murderers don’t have it that bad, time to realign our priorities.

It is interesting to note that since the Afghanistan War has started opium and heroine influx into the US has gone up 900%.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Paying for the War on Drugs means not paying for other things. Our schools could be better, especially in poor areas. This would give many children many more opportunities. This would would reduce their incentives to use or sell drugs. Plus the bonus of better educated children. But where would the money come from? You have to be willing to give up programs that haven’t been effective. The War on Drugs has become a sacred cow of sorts to many people, but I doubt those people think much about what they’re not getting because of it.

Posted by Winchester73 | Report as abusive

I think a lot of current non-users would be delighted for a taxed form of marijuana availability.

Posted by david | Report as abusive

Sorry to post twice, but does anyone remember back when Reagan drastically cut the funding for mental institutions? If you don’t, it’s the main reason you see so many schizophrenic homeless people out there to this day. It was also during Reagan’s administration that we really started ratcheting up this War on Drugs. An interesting trade off, not very admirable though and I would say somewhat inconsistent with conservative principles. Our drug addicts have a choice, but our schizophrenics that we’ve been stepping over on the sidewalks in greater numbers since Reagan do not. The mentally infirmed should be cared for even if it means we cannot “save” the drug addicts. Saving the drug addicts hasn’t been working out very well anyway. We did a better job with the schizophrenics, before we stopped.

Posted by Winchester73 | Report as abusive

We tried prohibion of alcohol and should have learned. If we took just half the money spent over the last 30 years on the DRUG WAR, and opened up federal stores in which drugs were free to those who wanted it and offerred free drug rehab to those who wanted off the addiction, there would be no black market for the cartels, violence in the US associated with folks stealing and killing to get the drugs would disappear. Finally, those who didn’t avail themselves of rehab would overdose……sounds harsh I know but it is all real instead of the bullshit games we play with policies that don’t work even when we spend billions because of the “moral” and “religious” fanatics…..and there would be money left over for some other good such as helping the poor children conceived by druggies.

in my case, years of illicit drug abuse(primarily high grade ganga and blow, with a little taste of everything else) has been followed by over a decade of prescribed medications in a spurious attempt at redeeming a semblance of rationale and accepted norms.

there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of difference in both instances. both courses modify behaviour and make inordinant amounts of filthy lucre for the larger drug organisations. still, I find myself questioning, which is the cause and which the cure.

ultimately, the decision should be left to me, the consumer. is a bag of high grade dope purchased over the counter of a respectable pharmacist (with prescription and appropriate warnings) any worse travesty of justice ,then a randomly lethal handgun and munitions purchased over the counter of a less than respectable dealer.

drug laws need some solid reform as the current economics of profitability inherently empower black-market pirates into creating lawless fiefdoms. they probably don’t rest easy with this arrangement du jour.

legalise it, don’t panic if it’s organic.

Posted by sweeny'60s | Report as abusive

Anyone hear of the drug lord that was placed on the Forbes billionaire list? Its pretty obvious that there is no way to stop the trade, might as well use the resources we are wasting fighting “the problem” and use those resources to figure out how to use the “problem” to our advantage. Id be willing to bet that we would not be having these economic problems if there was a tax system in place. If you could smoke caffeine would it be illegal, its addictive as is yet any person can purchase it.

let the consumer decide on his or her fate.

illicit drug production and prescribed medication production both make a great deal of filthy lucre for the actors du jour. both ends of the spectrum create their own lawless organisms capable of disturbing the rich diversity of a thriving, animate populis.

if one were able to purchase a bag of organic ganja or cocaine over the counter of a repectable pharmacist, by prescription (after becoming aware of the potential side-effects), would this in actuality be a greater offence to our society, than one purchasing a lethal handgun and munitions’ across the counter of a respectable purveyer of lethal weapons, by licence(after becoming aware of the potential side effects of one who is shot; on their immediate families, emergency personnel et al)

Posted by sweeny'60s | Report as abusive

The problem would be solved overnight if we just made drugs legal. But we can’t do that – why?

1. The Alcohol Industry.
That’s right people. America’s main drug of choice, alcohol, has a huge lobby in Washington and they do not want the competition.

2. The Criminal Justice System.
Okay, you think I’m nuts? Hear me out on this. The criminal justice system made up of cops, prosecutors, judges and prison personnel, is a gigantic business in this country. If drugs were made legal many thousands of criminal justice jobs would be lost. And they also have a huge lobby and they sow the seeds of fear and misinformation in order to keep their business growing.

3. Ignorance.
Because of criminal justice and alcohol working hard to keep their party rolling they also spread the false claim that we’ll all become heroin and marijuana addicted crack heads and the country will fall apart. Well why hasn’t that happened to other countries where heroin and marijuana is legal? Because it’s not true. Drug addiction in those countries is treated like a health issue just we treat alcoholism. But the powers that stand to benefit from the “War on Drugs” don’t want you to know that.

4. Complacency
Instead of politicians standing up to the inhumanity of this situation they cower and take the campaign contributions from aforesaid parties.

Posted by M Smith | Report as abusive

No Demand = No Supply. Tougher drug laws and longer incarceration for those caught and found guilty. For the first time, I agree with Hillary Clinton (wow, I never thought I’d say that!!) “our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade.” We need some archaic laws to tame the drug lords and dealers, like the “Death Penalty” and limb amputations. I’m sick of the death, destruction, billions of tax dollars wasted trying to control illegal drugs. The US is TOO SOFT on criminals in all phases of illegal drugs.

Posted by Mr. Bill | Report as abusive

I find it highly amusing that drugs all get lumped into a single category, yet things like alcohol and tobacco are somehow treated differently.

As a person who has used marijuana and who would happily buy it from “legal”, taxed sources (which would eliminate the “illegal” drug trafficking, I find the entire DEA expenditure a complete waste of money.

The fact the no administration has the guts to stand up against the absurdity of our drug “enforcement” policies is disheartening. I’d wager that I am a significantly larger “contributor” to society than many non-drug users, yet I am seen as someone who “needs help”.

The simple fact is that drugs are not the problem. People are the problem. Stop trying to tell me what I am able to do to myself (when it impacts no one else).

We have the perfect case study here in our very own history books. Prohibition. It failed to stop drinking, cost lives and money, and fueled a crime wave similar to what we are seeing in the drug war.

I am by no means saying ending the war, would make the world safer in relation to drugs, they are still poison. But its a personal choice, and many things – including food in large quantities, acts as a poison — smoking and drinking sound familiar?

The HUGE business in regulating, enforcing, and criminalizing – as well as the money lost to corruption (its just a fact of life that people steal when large pots of money go around) – will stop a change. It will take the war breaking across the border to cause a change… which it very well could do. Lawmen do their job – and do so with the best of intentions, and will probably take the change the hardest. But the best of intentions should never take free will and choice from a person – educate them, help them – don’t imprison them. The underworld creates the scenes they see and relate to devastation… the underworld would go away, if the war ended – it takes faith, or just reading your history books.

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

Great analysis M. Smith, dead on the money.

Also I’d like to add how funny it is that the only drug you see campaigned against is marijuana, our gov’t thinks that’s the worst drug. Why? Because it’s the cheapest and easiest to obtain, there’s no profit in that. I’ve never smoked weed in my life, never will and it’s nice seeing a outspoken majority of people who side with the anti-drug war movement.

But like another poster said it’s all about the holier than thou and religious crowd along with the items M. Smith listed. Which is odd cuz if I’m wrong let me know but I don’t think the bible says anything about drug use and it being immoral.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

Simple…… on a global basis…..

1) find the money
2) follow the money
3) take the money away

Elliot Ness had it right more than half a century ago.

Posted by JJ Albright | Report as abusive

The government could make so much tax revenue off making, what the Netherlands deems “soft” drugs, legal. As for the “hard” drugs make it available, however tightly regulated. All they have to do is use the ABC store idea. Seriously, I pay enough taxes to keep a pot head in jail than just to let him blaze in his house. It is policies like this in the U.S that make me loose faith in the system and the America people in general and Im American toboot!

Posted by Mule | Report as abusive

President Obama held an Virtual Internet White House Questions and Answers show on 3/26/09 and one of the questions regarded legalization or at least decriminalization of marijuana. I think the US Gov’t needs to realize is that if pot were handeled by the Gov’t as alcohol and cigarettes are (taxed) then that revenue would probably mean that we all payed lower taxes and the over flow of dollars would end the recession and stop putting the money into the hands of the cartels/terrorists. Come on folks, is it worse to smoke a little weed or is it worse to put money into those peoples pockets?? Lets get real here!

Posted by Charlie | Report as abusive

The violence associated with illegal drugs is a direct result of the greed of those selling the drugs. Greed for more turf, in other words, greed for more money. Why is there so much money trading hands? Because of these ridiculous laws prohibiting legal use, which is what makes these commodities so valuable and that value is what drives the greed that in turn fuels the violence. Take away the prohibition laws and you make the drug business a non-profitable business. That is how you attack the money and in turn stop the violence.
As for personal users and the adverse impact on themselves and those around them, that is an issue of personal responsibility, just like the decision to drink in moderation. That is something that cannot be legislated no matter how hard you try. Legalize and tax and watch income taxes get cut in half.

Posted by Adam | Report as abusive

Charlie good post but with the medicinal and pain-killing uses of marijuana the big drug lobby won’t allow legalization or decriminalization to go through without a big, billion dollar fight.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive

The federal government has no right telling the people what they can put into their bodies.

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

Interesting article.

What about the offshore accounts, Swiss and Cayman? If the drug czars invest-launder their money in and thru the mexican oil complex, via shell companies and offshore accounts, why not seize it. Tax, levy or tariff, what ever you want to call it. Apply international pressure on the digital pipeline. A new global tax.

Offshore money creates quite a pandors box, eh?

The sun never sets on the Swiss-BCS net.

Posted by Global Tax | Report as abusive

The drub problem was and is always simple.

Go after the user, and the user’s parents if the user is a minor. Do a drug test, [ no court case, no judge..just two quick tests and the test is the court] person fails the test, cut off a finger..automatic and swift punishment and send the offender to the doc and then home. Quite simple, they will never run out of toes and fingers, I doubt seriously they are doing much drugs after that. In the case of the minor..take the mothers finger off first and then the fathers, rotating them till the kid or kids stop.

Word gets out, not that many toes and fingers would be lost after that.

If nobody is buying drugs there is no more drug problem.

Posted by Jon Barry | Report as abusive

Definitions of laws make things either legal or illegal. I reckon the solution is to remove the legal barrier to drug supply, and then tax the living daylights out of it to garner revenues for fixing problems on the consumption end.
Free-market principles are demonstrably worthwhile. We don’t see gun-toting fishmongers or criminal gangs peddling milk powder now, do we?

Posted by Mark | Report as abusive

As the time have been changing from time to time from our day-to-day life. We cannot be controled or cannot be change suddenly by inforcing other wills. Even though we know that it’s illegal. As restless as the wind people are becoming more worsed. But like another poster said “No Demand = No Supply”….. Even though we can’t do that – why? People are the problem. We should try more harder to abolish from our society…… “better late than never”. And also I wanted to put in mind that “what will it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”. As the BIBLE says.

Posted by zingsho | Report as abusive

WOW. DID WE JUST ASK A DARE OFFICER HOW TO SOLVE THE DRUG WAR. I’m beginning to question whether or not ANYONE in a position of strength in these bureacracies has completed or even READ research on their subject. These people aren’t trained to think about the problem, they’re trained to do what the government tells them; snuff out “criminals”. They do it well, but they’re doing it to no end with OUR tax money.

Why would he, or any other dea agent, actually want to stop the drug war, THEY make money off of it. This fool associates himself with DARE saying we need more money towards those programs. We have proven these Let our scientists decide how drugs should be handled based on facts gathered from legitimate non-government influenced research.
We have caused irreversible damage by creating a black market on our shores. How many thosands of miles of shore does the U.S. have….it take what 13 trucks of coke to supply the US for a year? We can never stop that, embrace it and make our own market. Cartels laugh at us while we burn their crops because they know their money grows out of the ground. Their money falls into our hands and we light it on fire….great job guys.

EDUCATE YOURSELF. http://www.drugwarfacts.org <— research completed by real professionals and scientists….not greedy bureacrats.

This drug war is argueably the number one problem with america.

Here’s an example of how bogus our legislation is:
I live in south dakota, which is one of the last states to have “possesion by ingestion” laws. This means that if I test positive on a drug test, the government can charge me automatically with possesion and ingestion. POSSESION for thc IN my body. Whats even worse, when you get charged with possesion the container can be weighed and added to the charge as if it were the substance. I”m a 175 pound person…i can get charged with possesion of 175lbs of marijuana even though they never found any on my person…BRILLIANT

Posted by Alex Olsen | Report as abusive

Imagine what the huge pharmaceutical companies could do if they were legally allowed to develop and sell recreational drugs.

We’d have safe, harmless, enjoyable drugs with no side effects and no addictive properties. There’d be alcohol substitutes, pot substitutes, harmless substitutes for heroin, meth, cocaine, and everything else.

With one change of the law, we’d have no more drunk drivers killing innocents, no more dopey potheads making expensive mistakes at work, no more drug addicts living in the gutters and feeding off our tax money, no more corrupt government officials, and no more ruthless drug dealers.

Ending alcohol prohibition worked. Now let’s end prohibition on other drugs, too.

Posted by Sigh | Report as abusive

We should start by legalizing marijuana and see what happens. The taxes collected on income and gross sales tax would solve many problems. Will we ever learn from “Prohibition”? BTW, I’m 65, don’t smoke it (anymore), but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist…..

Posted by Jo Carey | Report as abusive

What if the Feds had gone down to Miami and set up a special “drug port” where the quality of narcotics are tested and approved for import, and collected a 50% tax on a rational street value of the drug. Disallow concoctions and trade only in pure drugs in the light of day. Imagine the huge sums of wealth that would have gone to our governments for social services, instead of to the SHADOW ECONOMY that threatens to topple the real one with its weight. Wake up, a rational approach to legalization is the best way…do not put the government and the people at odds with these laws and there will be far more support for the government as a result.

Posted by B | Report as abusive

I wonder whether Job Berry has never broken any law such as going through a red light or parking in a disabled parking space. People who fail to solve issues by evaluating “cause and effect” often use biased judgment to identify problem root causes. I believe a person without a finger might decide to use others to do his dirty work. Will your stand on cutting fingers change if the one-fingered criminal was to use your son or daughter?

Legalize the non-lethal drugs and put legislation in place to fine those who use it in certain places or give it to minors. Spend money on education and awareness. If you were to ban alcohol in North America, you would get the same problem as you have today with drugs.

Posted by JB | Report as abusive

In response to the person about the bible,The first commandment is ; You shall have no other Gods but me. Drugs are modern day Idols people use to worship themselves and to excape reality. I do believe that if the Gov. regulated drugs like cigs or alcahol it would end most of the violence that goes with it and making drugs a ugly thing like ciggarette smoking has been protraid only the people aready using would continue.

Posted by edaddy98 | Report as abusive

Alcohol prohibition in the 1920′s created so many problems with gangs and violence, so they ended prohibition. Let’s legalize drugs and regulate them like we do with alcohol and tobacco. That will put an end to the violent gangs, and save taxpayers billions of dollars locking up non-violent drug users. Some people are willing to end our freedom and raise our taxes to fight this unwinnable war on drugs. I would rather put up with a few drug abusing losers than live in a police state.

Posted by Eric | Report as abusive

Any country with heavy illegal drug use is a backward third world country. Case in point look what has happened to America with it’s ever increasing stupidity factor AKA dumbing down of America. Solution: a devil’s island off the coast to hold hard drug dealers and smugglers (forever) with no bars or cages. The island is the prison. Soft drug dealers be fined up their kazoo so indirectly they are contributing to society. Soft drug users be fined and cut off from any safety net (food stamps etc). Soft drug prices need to be reasonable otherwise Mexican drug cartels will under cut the prices.

Posted by WW. Terry | Report as abusive

Just keep everything the same…status quo…no real change in any policy, and we can assume that everything will stay exactly the same…
If alcohol or prescriptions were illegal, there would still be a market for that, and the violence that prohibition illicit…
The Drug Cartels don’t want any change in drug policy…
Perhaps some of the people getting paid off to look the other way, would rather keep the status quo, also..
And the jail business would suffer also, as people would need to be laid off, if non-violent drug offenders were released…
In this area, I don’t see any change we can believe in!
R.G. Madison, WI

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive

To the poster from South Dakota, your whole part of the country is filled with Neanderthal, petty thinking (a la Dick Cheney…and yes I know he’s not from your state).
However, Cheney’s mindset is prevalent there, and that is what makes your region a backwater.

So it is not a surprise the upper western states will have their heads up their a…. for as long as possible. I suggest moving or engaging the system and changing it.

I boycott your entire region based on it’s “Cheney-like” attitudes. Won’t buy anything from your parts,visit it …. or have anything to do with its inhabitants.

Let’s hope Dick Cheney dies soon and your region joins the 21st century.

Posted by Sonny | Report as abusive

gobal tax
Are you just stuped or are you from the middle east? cutting ppls finger off for a failed drug test omg get real will ya???? AM all for a eye for a eye but you take the cake. The ONLY reasonable answer to this is tax it and make it legel that way we can controll it and regalage it like beer and cigs. Gov. ports of emtry sounds like a good idea to me at lest for starters. what we’v been doing for years aint working so maybe we should try soemthing new.

Posted by warmarine | Report as abusive

Great column! The “war” on drugs is lost. We are broke. We are paying for police and prison guards to babysit people who did nothing but get busted with drugs. Alcohol is a far more dangerous drug than pot.

Drug laws are a license for the gov’t to steal and take away civil rights. Police and gov’t agencies have a huge incentive for drug busts…they get to KEEP the cars, money etc. from those convicted of drug offenses!

So let me get this straight. I can run someone over with my car and kill them, but I get to keep the car. If I’m caught selling drugs, then the state has the “right” to confiscate my car, my house, my money.

It is way past time this farce was dealt with in an adult manner. People will use drugs. Some will even
become president. Some unluckier ones will have felony
drug convictions and lose their student loans and never
get a job.

Posted by Drug "War" is Lost Cause | Report as abusive

Advocates of legalizing illicit drugs think all the problems will go away if we just “legalize and tax them.” Proponents of such a strategy are either users driven by self-interest, or woefully ignorant of the realities of drug abuse. As a prosecutor, I see daily what addiction to drugs does to people. I spoke to a heroin addict recently, who told me he’d broken into roughly 1,000 houses. His life? Steal- pawn – buy drugs – get high – repeat. We don’t see people breaking into houses to get cigarettes or alcohol. We rarely see people overdosing and dying from alcohol. Legalizing drugs such as heroin, cocaine and other hard street drugs would skyrocket crime – - I’d venture 80-90% of the property crime in my county is driven by drug abuse. Legalizing it means easier supply – but more addicts, who won’t be able to hold a job, and will need money for their fix. Do you know why they call heroin addicts “junkies”? Because they’ll steal anything – including junk – to sell to get money for their high.

My philosophy? Users get treatment for first time possession. They commit a crime other than possession? They do time, drugs are not an “excuse” for crime in my book. Dealers go to prison. Forfeit money and assets of the dealers to take the profit out of dealing. I’ve put dealers who gave drugs to young people (15, 21) in prison. The young people? The didn’t get prosecuted. Why? Oh, yeah, they are deceased from overdose.

Posted by Drug Warrior | Report as abusive

When my children grow up, I will not hold a grudge against a bartender for serving them a beer. But I will hold that grudge against anyone who would give our loved ones heroin. Thankfully, there is a legal response to deal with those who would give strong drugs to those we care about. If strong drugs are legalized, our efforts to keep loved ones clean of addiction will become illegal.

Posted by Dennis | Report as abusive

I guess everyone is entitled to an opinion – no matter how wrongheaded it is. Comparing the criminalization of illicit drugs to prohibition is just plain ridiculous. Ditto the comment about cops, prosecutors, and judges trying to “grow” their business. Trust me, I’d have plenty to do as a prosecutor otherwise.

Alcohol and drugs are not the same. Alcohol can be abused, to be sure; but it can be consumed safely. Many illicit drugs, in large measure, cannot.

Leave that aside for a moment. The WAR on drugs is NOT just against the cartels and major distributors. The true WAR on drugs is those abusers who commit crime to get those few dollars to buy heroin or coke. Even if the possession of either was not a felony, ancillary crime would stay high? Why? Generally, an addict has no other means to get money OTHER than to steal from you or me to support his or her habit.

Make it “legal” to possess and use will just result in more addicts, and more property crime to support their habits. Legal doesn’t mean “free.” Junkies still need those few dollars to feed their habit.

Drugs are not “harmless.” I’ve prosecuted dealers in several OD death cases – including two women who provided powerful Rx drugs to a 15 y.o. who died from an O.D. Fifteen. Dead. Overdosed.

So, yeah… let’s legalize drugs and tax them… and then I’ll deal with the carnage, while you move on to Global Warming, or something else you know little about.

Posted by Drug Warrior | Report as abusive

Good to see most have woken up the fallacy that prohibition works.
It enriches police and criminals, and turns the former into the latter through corruption. This is inevitable as history shows because the power of money is just too great.
The religious influence is sadder. Why do religious groups not oppose prohibition? Gullibility. they are primed to obey, even when common sense is in the way. To the true Christians out there: Would Jesus prefer the crime and corruption due to prohibition, or would he prefer the harm minimalist approach?
You have been fooled! Prohibition only benefits crims.

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive

We can fool some of the People some of the time…. The Money wins in the end.
Legalization is simply not the answer.
For some drugs are not a problem. For others it destroys their lives. Today we cannot care for our elderly or be confident in our futures. This especially is the worst time for legalization of even minor depressants like marijuana. This would not only create another economic strain, but, create a society of lazy zombies and mental cases. Could that be exactly what Barrack Hussein Obama wants? I would venture to say… yes.

The idea that legalizing ,and as a result cheapening narcotics and also taking the “forbidden” allure out of it will really bring about a real change in use and habits. Those who think the whole society will become addicted must have a pretty low opinion of themselves and everyone in their lives. I mean I can get any drug I want pretty easily, butI like to drink and I do, drugs just don’t do it for me, and I speak for a lot of people.They make a lot of us either jittery or stupid or both and I fail to see the point.Half the enjoyment seems to be in the illegal nature of it from what I can tell just as I am sure that a lot of people actually started drinking during prohibition cause it was illegal and therefore fun. The idea that the American society will collapse and we’ll become a nation of addicts is ludicrious and those who think it have a very low opinion of their fellow countrymen.

Posted by dom | Report as abusive

its time to rework the lawbooks make drugs legal its something that should have been done a long time ago we are a police state because of it look at all the money that has been wasted I could go on and on take away the profit motive and we could deal with it in a more peacefull way am I wrong?

Posted by John | Report as abusive

Well,in a nutshell i will say that I hope they never legalize it cause the money being made growing good sensimilla is incredible. If the American gov wants to be that stupid and blind that’s fine with me.Is it worth the risk? Why don’t you ask all your thieving bankers if it was worth the risk to be able to abscond with almost the entire economy right from under your noses as you fretted about AIG and golf outings.They laughed all the way to their Swiss bank accounts. I say keep it illegal and give someone else a chance to make their fortune, expensive pot doesn’t hurt anyone.Kind of like expensive wine really.

Posted by caliman | Report as abusive

The problem is indeed that collectively the US is the biggest drug addict in the world. Over-indebted, over-fed, and over-dosed. Their anthropology is moving quickly down the toilet swirl.

Posted by Mguel Zarcero | Report as abusive

I think eventually, all drugs should be legalized, and controlled through education. That would take away all the “cool” factor away from them, and the stigma that comes with addiction, which prevents people from getting help. Also, people should be allowed to do harm to themselves if it makes them happy (it’s protected by the constitution) as long as they don’t harm others.

As for people getting themselves killed by doing drugs, there are many ways to get yourself killed, like jumping off a cliff… that doesn’t mean we put border control agents on all cliffs to prevent people from jumping. It’s up to parents and teachers to tell kids that jumping is not a good idea… and if they still decide to jump, well, that’s natural selection =)

We should start by legalizing marajiuana… That is by far the most prevalent of the currently illegal drugs. As soon as it is legalized, drug-related crime will go down 90% and the tax money could be used to address our budget deficits, fund green technology, and teach kids not to use drugs.

Posted by IR | Report as abusive

I’m sure none of you hippies are drugged-out on pot.

Posted by mason | Report as abusive

Why are hippies predictable? They claim to be orginal and free-thinking, yet follow an extremely easy to predict pattern of personality.
Hey man free drugs, religion is evil, hate coporations and think the exact oppposite of everything else.
Is marijuana ok, yeah sure. It’s effects are on par with alcohol. The problem is that marijuana is a gateway drug, this is a vertiuble fact. Because unlike many of you hippies; I have actually sold drugs and used a large a variety of drugs. So through personal attestment of the damage viewed and self-inflicted I know that marijuana is a gateway drug. Do you think herion addicts decided to wake up one day and to inject a needle in their arm?? It starts with marijuana. As well as alcohol.
Prohibition was true can easily be dismissed as an anamoly, an outlier. As any semi-intelligent person or college graduate would know, that a single event is really indicitive of nothing. And futhermore in recent times repeals of prohibtion have led to increased drug usage. Did you know that?
Marijuana was legal in alaska for more than a decade, I believe from the late 70s to 1991. The reason the law was repealed was due to the fact of increased drug usage among the youth. The worst demographic we as a society want, to indulge in drugs. And at the least, it disproves the theory of prohibtion.
SO ladies and gentlemen, I am against incareration(sp) for the initial drug possesions, hut what is the solution. Each viewpoint on the issue has failed to work.

Posted by mason | Report as abusive

Why are hippies predictable? They claim to be orginal and free-thinking, yet follow an extremely easy to predict pattern of personality.
Hey man free drugs, religion is evil, hate coporations and think the exact oppposite of everything else.
Is marijuana ok, yeah sure. It’s effects are on par with alcohol. The problem is that marijuana is a gateway drug, this is a vertiuble fact. Because unlike many of you hippies; I have actually sold drugs and used a large a variety of drugs. So through personal attestment of the damage viewed and self-inflicted I know that marijuana is a gateway drug. Do you think herion addicts decided to wake up one day and to inject a needle in their arm?? It starts with marijuana. As well as alcohol.
Prohibition was true can easily be dismissed as an anamoly, an outlier. As any semi-intelligent person or college graduate would know, that a single event is really indicitive of nothing. And futhermore in recent times repeals of prohibtion have led to increased drug usage. Did you know that?
Marijuana was legal in alaska for more than a decade, I believe from the late 70s to 1991. The reason the law was repealed was due to the fact of increased drug usage among the youth. The worst demographic we as a society want, to indulge in drugs. And at the least, it disproves the theory of prohibtion.
SO ladies and gentlemen, I am against incareration(sp) for the initial drug possesions, hut what is the solution. Each viewpoint on the issue has failed to work.

Posted by john | Report as abusive