Saturday, June 2, 2012

Will the NY Times Endorse Drug Decriminalization?

Probably not. But nevertheless it's impressive that the great majority of the opinionators included in their recent Room for Debate section, titled, Should Latin America End the War on Drugs? advocate either some degree of decriminalization or harm reduction - which is decriminalization by another name.

Those who oppose decriminalization, do so mostly on a fait accompli argument: 'Washington isn't gonna let decriminalization happen, so we'd better deal with it.'

And here's one common argument against decriminalization which I find absurd: 'If drugs are legalized, the criminals who deal in them now will just branch out into other criminal industries, and so violence won't drop.'

That might be true on a small scale for a short time, as unemployed traffickers look for something to eat. But in the macro, it won't.

The historical evidence is there at the end of U.S. alcohol Prohibition violence levels dropped and the Mafia was weakened.

But it also makes common sense. Do you believe for a minute that a criminal gang involved in drug smuggling won't also hesitate to kidnap, steal and traffic in prostitutes if it can make even more money? Of course it will, and many of them do, in Colombia and Mexico and Central America.

But the existence of a huge underground drug economy creates the criminal organizations in the first place which is in the position to kidnap, rob and traffick in people. With drugs decriminalized, the underworld shrivels enough and loses critical mass in society so that the police can hopefully effectively combat them, reducing all kinds of crime.

Colombia in the Escobar era and Mexico today are great examples of this phenomenon. In both cases, not only did narcotrafficking explode, but so did kidnapping, mass murder and terrorism. That's because the trade in prohibited drugs created huge, vicious, heavily armed, amoral organizations, which found it easy, convenient and profitable to expand into all sorts of other crimes.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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