AlterNet’s Norm Stamper calls for legalization to end the growing violence in Mexico and in America caused by drug prohibition:
In the mid-’90s, the Arellano brothers’ drug cartel ruled Tijuana, perched atop the hierarchy of Mexico’s multibillion dollar illegal drug trafficking industry. Using cars, planes and trucks — and an intimate knowledge of NAFTA — the Arellanos transported hundreds of tons of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine into American cities.
They enlisted U.S. drug gangs. In 1993, in my last days as San Diego’s assistant police chief, the local gang Calle Treinte was implicated in the Arellano-inspired killing of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo. The Arellanos bribed officials on both sides of the border, spending over $75 million annually on the Mexican side alone, to grease their illicit trafficking.
And they enforced their rule not just with murder but with torture. If Steven Soderbergh’s gritty 2000 film “Traffic” caused you to squirm in your seat, the real-life story of Mexican drug dealing is even more disquieting. The brothers once kidnapped a rival’s wife and children. With videotape running, they tossed two of the kids off a bridge, then sent their competitor a copy of the tape, along with the severed head of his wife. Another double-crosser had his skull crushed in a compression vice. And who can forget the carne asada BBQs, where the Arellanos would roast entire families over flaming tires?
Whenever you hear horrible stories like this one, remember who is at least partly to blame for this situation: Politicians who support drug prohibition because they think it makes them look “tough on crime” when the policies they support are actually just tough on liberty. Prohibition simply creates attractive (black) markets for criminals and sociopaths. If drugs were legal, they would be under the control of Walgreens, not the Arellano brothers.
Illegal drugs are expensive precisely because they are illegal. The products themselves are worthless weeds — cannabis (marijuana), poppies (heroin), coca (cocaine) — or dirt-cheap pharmaceuticals and “precursors” used, for example, in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Yet today, marijuana is worth as much as gold, heroin more than uranium, cocaine somewhere in between. It is the U.S.’s prohibition of these drugs that has spawned an ever-expanding international industry of torture, murder and corruption. In other words, we are the source of Mexico’s “drug problem.”
The remedy is as obvious as it is urgent: legalization.
Regulated legalization of all drugs — with stiffened penalties for driving impaired or furnishing to kids — would bring an immediate halt to the violence. How? By (1) dramatically reducing the cost of these drugs, (2) shifting massive enforcement resources to prevention and treatment and (3) driving drug dealers out of business: no product, no profit, no incentive. In an ideal world, Mexico and the United States would move to repeal prohibition simultaneously (along with Canada). But even if we moved unilaterally, sweeping and lasting improvements to public safety (and public health) would be felt on both sides of the border. (Tragically and predictably, just as Mexico’s parliament was about to reform its U.S.-modeled drug laws, the Bush administration stepped in, pressuring President Vicente Fox to abandon the enlightened position he’d championed for two years.)
Stamper makes an excellent and well-thought-out call for legalization, but he’s missing part of the puzzle. The missing piece helps to explain why legalization won’t happen any time soon: The government is well aware of the problems caused by drug prohibition and that’s exactly the way they want it. They don’t want crime free cities (how could they strip us of our rights and frighten us if our cities are peaceful?), they don’t want cheap recreational drugs (how else could they make so much money without informing Congress of where it came from?) and they certainly don’t want to get rid of drug dealers (how else could they arrest any black person at any time?).
The elephant in the room has a kilo of coke jammed up his trunk and none of us are supposed to mention that fact. The Bush Crime Family has depended on the income delivered by drugs for years. This shouldn’t come as a surprise if you know that George Bush Senior (“Poppy Bush” as he is called) used to be the Director the CIA, an organization that is notorious for smuggling drugs, protecting drug kingpins, selling drugs to fund black ops and generally behaving like a bunch of state-sponsored terrorists… cause that’s what they are.
The CIA needs drugs to be illegal. They have to fund their illegal, terroristic black ops somehow: How are we supposed to assassinate foreign leaders, execute coup d’États, prop up right-wing dictators and generally spread fear around the globe if some goddamn hippies are goin’ around talking about drug legalization?! What the fuck?! Don’t you know how hard it is to spread fascism and evil without a slushfund?
Good point. America, the choice is soooo much harder than it seems: If we legalize drugs we might inadvertantly make the CIA less evil and impede its ability to launch terrorist attacks against its enemies, foreign and domestic! Oh noooo!!!!!