Nearly four decades after President Nixon declared a “war on drugs” and one trillion dollars spent prosecuting that war, drugs have become more attainable, cheaper and potent. You’d think fourteen years of prohibition would have left a lasting lesson for future generations of American lawmakers; Rendering a commodity that is in high demand by a populace illegal does not result in eradication. Quite the contrary it invites a lucrative, black market that just can’t wait to meet the needs of it’s consumers.
While legal markets operate within the confines of a regulated environment where production, marketing and legal disputes are settled, bloodlessly, within a governmental/legal system, the black market, certainly in terms of drugs, knows few bounds. Beyond feudal handshake agreements and the futile efforts of state law enforcement the governing factor of the drugs market is the gun. Be it small scale gang rivalries in American cities or large scale insurgencies the likes of which we see in Mexico the ultimate matter of settlement is not litigation but pure and simple violence.
In short the introduction of laws restricting commodities in high demand by a populace result in exactly the opposite of what was intended as they bring about a highly profitable illicit market and the simple yet incredibly violent regulatory process that it entails. Additionally this market is so profitable that despite dramatic, punitive measures the number of individuals willing to weigh risk vs profit vastly out perform the ability of nearly any state’s efforts of mitigation.
My small rant done (appreciate that you’ve read this far) I present two recent pieces that discuss the current state of affairs that is the “War on Drugs.”
Thomas Barnett at WPR presents an excellent overview of how a rising Latin America has reached it’s wits end with American’s foreign policy regarding the war on drugs and how, inevitably, the current American political myopia will end. I, as usual, encourage giving the piece a full read.
<blockquote>Meanwhile, across Latin America, there’s been widespread movement toward decriminalization. Why? Because the benefits of remaining on America’s “good side” on this hot-button issue have been overwhelmed by the negative externalities of overcrowded prisons, rampant drug-related violence, police corruption, and growing organized criminal networks.</blockquote>
Fora and Australia Broadcasting Corp. a panel discussion that takes a look not only at the politically facile elements of the drug war but also the financial aspect; the “prison industrial complex” and law enforcement agencies financially reliant on the continuation of the war on drugs. If you prefer to not see the video it’s whole length through I’d suggest at least paying attention to the first speaker, former chief of police in Seattle.
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The insistent prosecution of this “War on Drugs” seems to me to be analogous to ridding oneself of a migraine by smashing one’s head into an anvil. Continuously. And each time, bloodied and aching more than ever, insisting that the next time will prove the cure.
 Iran maintains both a leading drug addiction rate and the most extreme punitive measure of drug enforcement (death penalty.)