Thursday, March 12, 2009

Prohibition

MITHRIDATES
Print journalism still serves a purpose. As wonderful as we bloggers think we are, the full-timers in respectable print institutions with worldwide presence (~0.01% of all print journalists?) can offer investigative and comprehensive reporting that those of us writing from our parents' basements can't match.

As such, I have little to add to this Economist feature report on the worldwide drug trade. For those of you who still think prohibition is working, well, it's not. So you're wrong. Wouldn't be the first time either, now would it?
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The first piece deals with the potential for Mexico to descend further into chaos and the ability of traffickers to adapt. The narcs cut down on the island hoppers, forcing the trade overland making Mexico the hub of the drug trade. And for all the small "l" liberals who think the 2nd amendment is a wonder only to be cherished, the Mexican cartels are easily arming themselves in over-the-border arms stores. Oh, sure, it's illegal to export, but without the feds getting more involved in our own gun stores, well, arms will continue to be exported illegally . . .

The second reports on cocaine users in Europe and raises some health issues about prohibition.
But in the past few years dealers have turned to pharmaceutical cutting agents such as benzocaine, a topical anaesthetic, which mimic the effects of cocaine and may be more harmful. Dealers call such agents “magic” because of their effect on profits. “Grey traders”, who knowingly sell such chemicals to dealers, are starting to be convicted.

Educating drug-takers about what is getting up their noses may lower demand. But cutting raises bigger questions for drug policy. “We may have to say at some stage that taking heavily adulterated cocaine is more physically harmful to the user than taking cocaine that’s less adulterated,” a senior SOCA official says. “That is not the case at the moment. But we’ve got to keep asking the question. I’m aware that the health equation could one day say: Stop trying to stop cocaine coming in.”

The third points out that prohibition appears to have little or no impact on usage. Drug use might go up if legalized, but it might not. But given all the other problems associated with prohibition (violence, poor treatment, high incarceration levels, cost of enforcement), this suggests there's lots of downside to it and potentially no upside.

The final article gives hope. It points out some of the failed approaches in the US to scare kids off illegal drugs, but the success it has had in reducing one of the most addictive drugs, the legal nicotine, by bringing it out in the open, using smart advertising, and de-glamorizing (word?) it.

It may seem odd that the campaign against tobacco, a legal drug, has displayed so much more élan than the war on illegal drugs. Yet this is natural. Making a drug illegal may discourage some people from taking it, but it also discourages frank conversation and clear thinking. It is much easier to attack something if it is brought into the light.

Meanwhile France is upping the drinking age. Force kids out of cafes and into the street. Make getting drugs easier than alcohol like it is for teenageers in America. Bonne idée.

Legalize it.


1 comment:

ONTRI said...

It's not that the world needs print journalists, its that the world needs real journalists that make their work available in whatever medium the consumer wants. Print is dying but I still want real journalists and a brand and name behind those journalists so I have some way of knowing they abide by some set of guidelines. The journalism and writing in the Economist is great, I just don't want them piling up in my house. It is annoying which is why I canceled my subscription.

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