George Will makes several good points in his editorial today.The drug legalization dilemma However, he also has a couple of more steps that he could have taken to make it more biting and realistic.
1. “…Twenty percent of all American prisoners — 500,000 people — are incarcerated for dealing illegal drugs, but alcohol causes as much as half of America’s criminal violence and vehicular fatalities…”
2. “…Another legal drug, nicotine, kills more people than do alcohol and all illegal drugs — combined. For decades, government has aggressively publicized the health risks of smoking and made it unfashionable, stigmatized, expensive and inconvenient. Yet 20 percent of every rising American generation becomes addicted to nicotine….”
3. “…Regarding the interdicting of drug shipments, capturing “kingpin” distributors and incarcerating dealers, consider data from the book “Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know” by Kleiman, Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken. Almost all heroin comes from poppies grown on 4 percent of the arable land of one country — Afghanistan. Four South American countries — Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia — produce more than 90 percent of the world’s cocaine. But attempts to decrease production in source countries produce the “balloon effect.” Squeeze a balloon in one spot, it bulges in another. Suppress production of poppies or coca leaves here, production moves there. The $8 billion Plan Colombia was a melancholy success, reducing coca production there 65 percent, while production increased 40 percent in Peru and doubled in Bolivia….”
4. “…In the 1980s, when “cocaine cowboys” made Miami lawless, the U.S. government created the South Florida Task Force to interdict cocaine shipped from Central and South America by small planes and cigarette boats. This interdiction was so successful the cartels opened new delivery routes. Tranquility in Miami was purchased at the price of mayhem in Mexico. …” It was cocaine that created the Miami building boom in the 1980s. The state of Florida knew it and so did the feds. It was not till the publicity in which Miami became known as ‘casa blanca’ of the western hemisphere that anyone chose to do anything about it.
5. “…America spends 20 times more on drug control than all the world’s poppy and coca growers earn. A subsequent column will suggest a more economic approach to the “natural” problem of drugs…” No one will do anything about the drug problem because there are too many vested interest groups tied to the drug war whose economic survival would tank if the problems were solved. At the head of the list is the criminal justice complex of this country. We have the technology to wipe out drugs should we choose to do so.
We have been fighting a war in Afghanistan for almost ten years. Think we could have killed the poppy production if we had the political will? It has not happened because it was in no one’s best interest to do so. It was certainly not in the best interest of those politicians whose constituency is the mothers and children whose lives are being destroyed by addictions to this substance.
The clearest point to be made was the ‘Truth Commission’ in the state of Florida. It was financed by money from the tobacco settlement and was making a major dent in the drugs and tobacco consumption by teenagers. The legislature pulled the funding on it at the height of its success. You only need to know and look to see whose pockets were being hurt to understand why it was terminated.