Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Drug Warrior Reconsiders

Ernesto samper: New thinking on the
War on Drugs.
As President of Colombia from 1994 to 1998, Ernesto Samper carried out the good fight against the drug trade, thru interdiction, imprisonment and erradication.

Now, he believes that war was a failure, and has written a book calling for change.

His book, 'Drugs: Prohibition or Legalization, a New Proposal,' doesn't appear to break much new ground. Samper argues that prohibition enriches criminal cartels and that limiting the supply of one drug just pushes users to other drugs. Decriminalization and regulation, he says, would reduce the damage. The United States' obsession with prohibition, Samper says, is similar to a religion.

Samper wants to starts by legalizing marijuana, and then evaluate other drugs on a case-by-case basis.

The real significance of this book is the author's perspective. Samper governed Colombia during some of the worst years of drug cartel violence. He also came to know first-hand the prohibition's corrosive effects on society when it was revealed that the Cali drug cartel had contributed some $6 million to his campaign. Altho there was little question about the illegal money, Samper himself was not finally convicted. Still, the scandal soiled his and Colombia's international image.

Samper joins a growing list of Colombian politicians who recommend a rethinking of prohibitionist policies, including fellow ex-presidents Cesar Gaviria and Andres Pastrana, and even current Pres. Juan Manuel Santos. The list is only likely to continue growing longer.

But, in this war, the politician in the White House is the one whose views really matter.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Andrew Scott said...

Hmmm.....I'm thinking that the Cali drug cartel didn't provide any of the funding to get this book published. Could it be that they're happy with the current status quo? What do you reckon Stuart Oswald(defender of US drug policy)?

Miguel said...

The old Cali Cartel is, of course, gone now.

However, it's a fallacy to think that drug traffickers support prohibitionism. Legalization would take away their markets, as the drug business would be taken over by legal, tax-paying (if unethical companies). How about Philip Morris? Seagram's?


Andrew Scott said...

Dear Mike,

Although I agree with the second half of your response to my comment surely it is prohibition that artificially inflates the market value of the drugs and therefore the profit margin for the drug traffickers.

Miguel said...

Hi Andrew,

I half agree with you. Prohibition IS why drug trafficking can bring huge profits. However, those huge potential profits happen because prohibition also generates huge costs for traffickers: they have to pay bribes, pay gunmen, risk their lives and lose maybe half of their shipments to authorities. None of that's true of a legal product like coffee. So, they're extraordinary profits are balanced by extraordinary costs.