The war on drugs has been lost, and the costs of continuing the futile fight throughout the world mount daily.
Dumb about dope
Some policies of the U.S. government over the past couple decades bring the movie Idiocracy to mind. To find out why, read Sunday's Washington Post and you will learn that Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, across the river from El Paso, is so dangerous that many of its business and political leaders get tucked into bed every night in El Paso. That's right, the community's elite are scared to stay in their hometown -- and, sadly, that makes sense.
There is a war ongoing in Juarez over control of illegal narcotics. The president of Mexico is so alarmed over the death rate in this war that he sent 10,000 army troops into Juarez and the police force was overhauled too in an effort to regain control but all reports seem too conclude the drug merchants are winning. In the past six months 2,500 people have been murdered in Juarez over the right to control the sale of illegal drugs to the world's largest market for drugs -- the USA. Juarez is only one port of entry; there are many others.
Billions of dollars are at stake, and while Mexico is unlikely to collapse over this war, it is not going well.
Take a glance south to Colombia. There the drug cartels have control of the drug sales and large chunks of the country. The Number 1 customer? You guessed it. Congratulations, America -- we're Number 1.
We are told that a big problem for our armed forces in Afghanistan is that President Hamid Karsai's brother is a kingpin in the illegal drug market. It is hard to rid one's country of corruption if one's brother is a major drug trafficker.
I could go on -- Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala, but you get the drift. You know that the much heralded American "war on drugs" under Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and other American administrations has been a joke to brag to the law and order folks that we really care. We don't. We have not made a dent in the demand for narcotics. Not a dent. And with demand at an all-time high in the world's biggest market, don't be surprised when reading about Juarez.
Pause for a moment and let's ask ourselves: If the United States repealed the constitutional prohibition of alcohol in 1933, why were people so smart back then and why are we so dumb now? From 1920 until 1933 the 18th Amendment had no impact on reducing the number of drinkers. Indeed, my parents told me that Prohibition seemed to make drinkers out of everyone. From Adam until today, the forbidden fruit is the hardest to resist. Prohibition made billions of dollars for organized crime. Al Capone controlled more than 10,000 speakeasies by the end of Prohibition. He bootlegged, sold booze and laughed at our law enforcement efforts as organized crime took control of alcohol in America.
In state after state, prisons are full in part because of illegal possession or sale of narcotics. The average cost per year per prisoner is under $30,000, but not by much. Is there any wonder governments are going broke?
Let's ruin organized crime -- let's get smart and legalize narcotics. We can buy alcohol; we can smoke cigarettes; I think the time has arrived to do something sensible. Let's make it possible, even comfortable for leading citizens of Juarez to sleep in their own beds in their own country. Let's imprison fewer people.
(A version of this article originally appeared in the opinion section of the Capital Times.)
December 29, 2009
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Ed Garvey is editor and publisher of FightingBob.com.