Tag: drug war

President of Mexico Calls for Debate on Legalization of Drugs

For the first time ever, Mexican President Felipe Calderón said yesterday that it was “fundamental” to have a debate on the legalization of drugs. Calderon, from the conservative National Action Party (PAN), had until now been reluctant to pay heed to the growing calls in Mexico and Latin America for a hemispheric debate on drug legalization. Once they left office, two of Calderón’s predecessors—Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox—have also engaged in the debate, calling for the need to legalize drugs as a way to battle the drug violence that is crippling Mexico. Others, such as Jorge Castaneda, former foreign minister of Mexico, have also called for an end to prohibition.

In today’s edition, El Universal newspaper in Mexico City claims [in Spanish] that Calderón’s turn around had something to do with a meeting he had a few days ago with Juan Manuel Santos, president-elect of Colombia. According to the newspaper’s sources, Santos told Calderón that drug trafficking is not under control in Colombian territory and that Mexico should be the country leading a public debate on legalization or decriminalization of drugs.

As I’ve written before, there is a growing consensus within Latin America about the failure of the war on drugs and the need to implement a sensible approach to drug policy. The question remains: Is anyone in Washington paying attention?

Baptists and Pot-Growers

The L.A. Times reports that the city of Oakland has approved an ordinance paving the way for the industrial production of marijuana. There is more to this than simply a victory for liberty in the drug war.  As the story describes and Josh Blackman analyzes, the episode demonstrates “Baptists and Bootleggers”-style public choice economics in action: existing small-time growers are displeased at the competition, barriers to entry are high, the approved pot factories engaged in serious rent-seeking, and the city profits from a new stream of tax revenue.

And so, as liberty expands, government reserves the power to decide who gets to benefit most – after taking a slice for itself off the top.

Barack Obama’s War on ‘Chooming’

My Washington Examiner column this week begins with a look back at the Disco Era:

In his high school yearbook photo, President Barack Obama sports a white leisure suit and a Travolta-esque collar whose wingspan could put a bystander’s eye out. Hey, it was 1979.

Maybe that explains the rest of young Barry’s yearbook page, with its “still life” featuring a pack of rolling papers and a shout-out to the “Choom gang.” (“Chooming” is Hawaiian slang for smoking pot.)

Survey data suggest some 100 million Americans have tried pot, including political elites and drug war supporters Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. So the point here isn’t to play “gotcha” by calling the president out on some harmless fun three decades ago. It’s to ask why he isn’t doing more to change a policy that treats people engaged in such activities as criminals.

As I note in the column,

in his new National Drug Control Strategy [.pdf], Obama “firmly opposes the legalization of marijuana or any other illicit drug” and boasts of his administration’s aggressive approach to pot eradication. Watch your back, Choom Gang.

This may present Obama with a serious moral dilemma if and when California votes to legalize recreational use of marijuana this November. (More here in this podcast).

A Forceful Call For Change From El Paso

El Paso, TX is one of the safest cities in the country, but its residents are strongly identified with the human tragedy affecting their Mexican neighbors across the Rio Grande. El Paso shares a metropolitan area with Ciudad Juárez, México, arguably one of the most dangerous cities in the world, where over 4,000 people have been killed in the last couple of years.

This situation is something that the communities of El Paso and Las Cruces, NM want to change. On Monday, politicians, academics, civic and business leaders of both cities will hold an event calling for a “comprehensive revamping of the failed War on Drugs waged by the United States and other countries.” You can read the press release here.

Among other things, they

…advocate, as an important first step in drug reform, the repeal of the ineffective U.S. marijuana drug laws in favor of regulating, controlling and taxing the production, distribution, sale and consumption of marijuana by adults. The sale of marijuana in the U.S. black market contributes 50 to 70 percent of Mexico’s cartel revenues.

Last year the city council of El Paso passed a resolution calling for “an honest, open, national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics.” Leading figures in the community have come to understand that the only way to tackle drug violence is by legalizing drugs, not by relying on conventional and unrealistic approaches, including tougher enforcement and sealing the border — alternatives that don’t resonate with a community so deeply intertwined with their Mexican neighbors.

As they meet at the White House on Monday, will President Obama and President Felipe Calderón of México hear the call for a change in drug policy coming from El Paso and Las Cruces?

Associated Press: Drug War Failing

From an Associated Press story:

After 40 years, the United States’ war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread.  Even U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske concedes the strategy hasn’t worked. “In the grand scheme, it has not been successful,” Kerlikowske told The Associated Press.”

Former Drug Czar John Walters complains, ”To say that all the things that have been done in the war on drugs haven’t made any difference is … saying all the people involved in law enforcment, treatment and prevention have been wasting their time. It’s saying all these people’s work is misguided.” 

Precisely.

Read the whole thing.  More here and here.

Behind Every Law Is Force

That’s one lesson that this video of a drug raid should drive home.

Warning: Graphic Language and Material

In America today, lawmaking is discussed much too casually.  The consequences are not seriously considered.  We allow agencies to issue regulations without having a formal vote in the legislature.  “Too cumbersome.”  Compliance is automatically assumed.  Few want to consider whether the use of brute force can be justified against someone who resists, or the danger that might be created for the innocent who get swept up in investigations.   We now have thousands of rules and regulations on the books.

We suffered through the painful lessons of liquor prohibition, but have been slow to see the parallels in the drug war.  A few years ago, Cato published a report on these paramilitary raids, called Overkill. The author of that study, Radley Balko, has been vigilant about highlighting these raids and dispelling the idea that they are just a few “isolated incidents.”

More on the drug war here.

‘Taking the Rest of His Life Away’

Upon sentencing a 24 year old to 27 years in federal prison on a drug charge, the Federal Judge Alan Bloch lamented, “I was basically taking the rest of his life away.”

Go here to read about that case, which is coming before the Supreme Court for review.  For related Cato scholarship on sentencing, go here and here (pdf).  For Cato work on the drug war, go here.