By James Collins
(Warning: Extremely Graphic Content)
There is a huge debate amongst cannabis users in these, the dying days of prohibition, about what scheme should replace the current legal framework. Some want decriminalization, some want full legalization; a few idiots are still on board with locking up drug users.
The latter handful is increasingly shouting into the winds of social change which are blowing quite strongly against them. The fact is that prohibition is coming to an end, so what’s it going to be, legalization or decriminalization?
I want to introduce you to the Mexican Drug War. It’s a very real problem, a war waged over control of drug trafficking routes out of South America and into global markets. We aren’t just talking about cannabis here, although that is a major issue that is slowly diminishing in scope after legalization in two American states for recreational purposes. The manufacture and trafficking of illicit substances is a massive global business, and funds wars in several nations.
In 2010 Hermila Garcia took the job of Police Chief in Warez, Mexico. She replaced a man who was gunned down in broad daylight in the middle of town with his security detail by cartel enforcers. She vowed to take on the cartels, to clean up Warez once and for all. She lasted two months on the job, and like her predecessor, was gunned down in plain view by violent criminals who apparently have absolutely no fear of authorities.
60,000 people have died in the fighting, with scenes like the one depicted above becoming increasingly commonplace. You see, in the producer nations of drugs like cannabis and cocaine the “War on Drugs” isn’t any kind of metaphor; it is a real, full-blown shooting war and the victims come from all walks of life. This is the effect of prohibition, when legal businesses are not allowed to produce and sell the drugs there is such a demand for then some very scary people use those drugs to fund their nefarious activities.
Decriminalization doesn’t address the War on Drugs at the roots. It addresses the end user, the average toker. While the average Joe Bonghitter doesn’t want to live in fear of persecution for their indulgence, the fact of the matter is that they are the least threatened by the War on Drugs in the long chain of people involved in the production, distribution and consumption process. While you would like to exchange a potential small jail term for a fine, at the end of the day a lack of legitimacy to the drug market continues to fuel things like the Mexican Drug War.
Full legalization, regulation and taxes and all the stuff associated with normal, above-board markets, will address this problem. Cartels in Mexico are already turning from cannabis to opium cultivation because of a diminishing consumer demand for black-market cannabis in the face of a legal market. That’s right, a few months into the experiment in Colorado and the demand has already dropped enough that some cannabis farmers in Mexico are changing crops because demand is evaporating. The impact of legalization on the dangerous cartels we hear about was almost instantaneous, just imagine what would happen if legalization were a global policy backed by the United Nations. When we the end user discuss the issue of prohibition and potential legalization, we must look past the end of our own noses. We have to stop considering what happens to us personally and start addressing the issue on a global scale. We have to look at the cost/benefit ratio of different schemes, and in the big picture decriminalization continues to fund the cartels that inflict an unspeakable level of violence and intimidation on the public of several nations.
Are we as drug users going to adopt responsible attitudes with a global perspective on the subject of prohibition? Or will we frame the discussion in terms of the impact on us, the end-user, personally? I don’t want to go to jail for consuming cannabis, or whatever drug of choice is up for discussion, but at the same time I’m not willing to exchange my freedom for an ocean of blood in a half-solution that reduces persecution of users in consumer nations and increases violence and oppression in producer nations.
We can’t talk about drug laws without discussing the more visceral and terrifying aspects of the issue and those happen to include piles of headless corpses lying in the streets of Warez. Let’s not run away from the ugly truths and recognize that we the user are the least negatively impacted by prohibition. The people who are living in fear under the rule of violent maniacs in places like Mexico have it far worse than we do, however lousy our prices and supply might be.
Decriminalization doesn’t mean “open and free”. It means that producers and traffickers are still working outside of the law, and it means they will continue to conduct their business in the fashion they do now, often brutally and without consideration for public safety. Decriminalization just reduces penalties for possession, turning a criminal offense into something like a traffic ticket, while maintaining the illegality of the substances we wish to access. Legalization means that production, shipping and sales are all above-board, all conducted in the light of day, and the money doesn’t go into the hands of the kinds of people who will leave a pile of bodies in the town square to teach everyone a lesson. Instead it allows decent people to make a regular living cultivating and selling the drugs that people so enjoy consuming.
I know which scheme I back; do you know where you stand?
James Collins is a Canadian blogger, author and activist.