Sunday, October 28, 2007

cocaine traffic

An interesting report about how Venezuela is increasingly becoming a significant transit point for cocaine from Colombia. Yes, there is corruption among Venezuela's police and border security just as drug money causes such corruption elsewhere, including in the United States. And yes, the current terrible relations between that Venezuelan buffoon Chavez and the de facto buffoon of the United States Bush have hurt US-Venezuelan cooperation on drug trafficking, which helps the Colombians.

But remember - cocaine production like most other goods is a demand-driven phenomenon. Peasants in Colombia and Bolivia wouldn't be growing the coca if there weren't a ready market for it. And that market is us right here in the US.

Legal or not, the cocaine will flow. Making it (or other drugs like ecstacy, pot, and LSD) illegal does several things, all bad. It drives up the price, making it more attractive to organized crime and to unsavory regimes. It makes the casual user a criminal, who is treated totally differently from his neighbor who works his way thru a fifth of Jack Daniels every weekend. It makes an addict a criminal as well, unlike his nicotine- and alcohol-dependent friends who can seek help without fear of arrest. It eliminates the ability of the state to regulate the product on safety and health grounds, which is why you are more likely to get rat poison and other unsafe impurities in cocaine than in beer.

Not to mention the scars the war on drugs leaves on our society. The shameful incarceration rate in the United States - right there behind China - is largely because we throw people into jail for possessing illegal drugs. "Three strikes" made this even worse.

Hell, I don't even like using drugs and I don't smoke and barely drink. But this is stupid. Legalize, tax, and regulate drugs. We could use all the money we waste in the futile effort to eradicate supply to instead reduce demand by treating addicts and better educating people about the risks of drug abuse.

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